Folic Acid (Vitamin B9)
Folic Acid is the name for the synthetic form of Folate, the naturally occurring form of the water soluble vitamin B9, found in high amounts in leafy green vegetables, beetroot, citrus fruits, legumes and liver. Folic acid is produced for use in fortified foods and supplements, and is converted to its biologically active form by the liver. Most fruits and vegetables contain good levels of natural folate, while bread, cereals and yeast extracts are generally fortified with folic acid.
The importance of adequate folic acid levels during the pre-conception period in reducing the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) is well established. Your need for folates is higher during pregnancy and supplementing folic acid from the preconception stage onwards is accepted best practice. Its protective action may also help to prevent miscarriage.
Folic Acid (Vitamin B9) Benefits
Folates are vital nutrients for the biosynthesis of DNA and RNA, and building blood cells and tissue. Because of its key role in cell division and cell formation as the baby develops, adequate folate levels are essential for healthy foetal development prior to conception and during the first trimester. Low levels can cause NTDs.
Folic acid also stimulates production of hydrochloric acid (HCl) in the stomach.
Every part of the body is affected by a folate deficiency, particularly the cells of the blood, gastrointestinal tract and genital tract.
Folic Acid (Vitamin B9) Side Effects
Caution is advised for people with epilepsy as folic acid may interfere with anticonvulsant medications.
Some medical drugs are folate antagonists and are known to increase the risk of NTDs; these include anti-epileptics, anti-convulsants, fertility drugs, insulin, acne medications and some anti-tumour drugs.
Low levels of zinc and vitamin C will negatively affect dietary folate absorption and its biochemical activity.