Folic Acid / Folate
Vitamin B9 is more commonly referred to as folate or folic acid, stemming from the latin word for "leaf". It is found in many green leafy vegetables and has recently been added to enriched grain products by order of the FDA. Folic acid is particularly vital to a fetus in the first few weeks of gestation. It works in conjunction with the other B vitamins, especially vitamin B12.
Natural Food Sources
Asparagus, avocado, banana, beans, beets, brewer's yeast, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, calf liver, cantaloupe, citrus fruits, endive, fortified grains and cereals, garbanzo beans, green leafy vegetables, lentils, nuts, sprouts, wheat germ.
Folic acid helps form red blood cells and genetic material, plus affects the growth and repair of all tissues. It reduces homocysteine in the blood, which may forestall heart disease. It also regulates fetal development, and can help prevent birth defects like spina bifida if taken in the early stages of pregnancy. Recent studies have shown that folic acid may also prevent certain cancers and fend off depression.
Folate deficiency is a common problem, especially in women (pregnancy, breastfeeding and oral contraceptive use depletes stores of this vitamin). Folic acid deficiency in a fetus can lead to cleft palate, learning disabilities and neural-tube defects. Anemia, gastrointestinal disturbances, fatigue, forgetfulness, infertility, bleeding gums and stunted growth are other reported symptoms.
Prolonged use of high doses may damage the kidneys. Doses over 1,500 mcg daily can lead to appetite loss, flatulence, and abdominal distension.
Dietary Reference Intake
400 mcg (600 mcg for pregnant women)