Vitamin B9

Background

Vitamin B9, also known with two other most familiar names as Folate, and Folic acid, is a B vitamin that has essential roles in the growth of neonates as well as in supporting a process known as methylation in adults. Vitamin B9 or folic acid is also well-known as being the ‘pregnancy supplement’ where women who are planning to conceive children take it daily. It has a great role in inhibiting neural tube defects in infants as well as in supporting general health.[1] Vitamin B9 or folate also plays a critical role in the inhibition of uracil incorporation into DNA and hypomethylation of DNA.[2]
Vitamin B9 works as a coenzyme in single-carbon transfers in the synthesis of DNA and RNA. It transforms homocysteine to methionine which is used in the synthesis of S-Adenosyl-methionine (SAMe).[3] Being a nootropic, Vitamin B9 is involved in gene expression, myelin synthesis, amino acid synthesis, and is shown to assist in the synthesis of various hormones and neurotransmitters like dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine and serotonin.

Foods known to be high in vitamin B9

Benefits

According to USDA analyses of data in 2006, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that most people in the United States obtain adequate amounts of vitamin B9 or folate or folic acid, although some groups are still at risk of obtaining insufficient amounts.[4]
Vitamin B9 deficiency can be a serious problem and causes a lot of health problems including immune function, low energy, digestion, anemia, developmental problems during pregnancy and infancy, including stunted growth etc.
Vitamin B9 is regularly used as a natural supplement to pregnant women in order to avoid certain birth defects. It is crucial for human growth and development. It also encourages normal nerve and proper brain functioning, and may help reduce blood-levels of the amino acid homocysteine. Vitamin B9 or folic acid or folate may also help protect against cancers of the lung, colon, and cervix. This potent supplement can help enhance the density of serotonin and dopamine neurotransmitters in your brain and improve neurotransmitter signaling to cope with stress, reduce depression and improve memory.
The most common health benefits of vitamin B9 include:

  • Improves cognitive function [5]
  • Improves memory [6]
  • Promotes mood and reduces stress [7]
  • Lessens depression [8]
  • Supports a healthy pregnancy [9]
  • Acts as an antioxidant [10]
  • Helps people fight cancer [11]
  • Improves heart health [12]
  • Helps people who have Alzheimer’s disease and dementia [13]
  • Increases immune system [14]
  • Increases fertility [15]
  • Improves hearing [16]
  • Improves vision / eye health [17]

Vitamin B9 or folate is used in red blood cell production. The potential cognitive-enhancing effects of the compound might be caused by its ability to lessen the presence of inflammatory markers.

How it works

Vitamin B9 is needed for the proper development of the human body and it is involved in producing the genetic material called DNA and in numerous other bodily functions. The supplementation can be found to significantly improve a long list of cognitive function determinants, including full scale intelligence and information processing, compared to the placebo.
An actual or functional vitamin B9 deficiency, with an attendant reduction in purine/pyrimidine synthesis and genomic and non-genomic methylation reactions in brain tissue, leads to decreased DNA stability and repair and gene expression/transcription, which could hamper neuronal differentiation and repair, promote hippocampal atrophy, demyelination and compromise the integrity of membrane phospholipids impairing the propagation of action potentials.[19]
Vitamin B9 plays an essential role in brain and nervous functions, especially in the synthesis of neurotransmitters. Several evidence links a shortage of Vitamin B9 or folate with depression.[18]  Inadequate evidence from randomised controlled trials showed using folic acid in addition to SSRIs may have benefits. Studies found a link between depression and low levels of Vitamin B9 and it may reduce homocysteine levels which are associated with cognitive functions.

Considerations

Vitamin B9 is well tolerated and safe to use and has few adverse side effects. Vitamin B9 is possibly unsafe when taken in large doses, long-term and might cause abdominal cramps, diarrhea, rash, sleep disorders, irritability, confusion, nausea, stomach upset, behavior changes, skin reactions, seizures, gas, excitability, and other side effects. Taking the supplements might make seizures worse in people with seizure disorders, particularly in high doses.[20]

Recommendations

Vitamin B9 dose varies for different symptoms such as:

  • For deficiency problem: the typical dose is 250-1000 mcg (micrograms) per day.
  • For avoiding neural tube defects: at least 400 mcg per day from supplements or fortified food should be taken by women capable of becoming pregnant and continued through the first month of pregnancy. Women with a history of previous pregnancy complicated by such neural tube defects usually take 4 mg per day beginning one month before and continuing for three months after conception.
  • For reducing colon cancer risk: 400 mcg per day.
  • For high levels of homocysteine in the blood:
    • 0.5-5 mg (milligrams)/day has been used, although 0.8-1 mg/day is appears to be more effective.
    • In people with end-stage renal disease, high homocysteine levels may be more difficult to treat, and doses of 0.8-15 mg/day have been used. Other dosage plans such as 2.5-5 mg 3 times weekly have also been used. Doses higher than 15 mg daily do not seem to be more effective.
  • For improving the response to medications for depression: 200-500 mcg daily has been used.
  • Etc.

Consult your physician for your appropriate dose for your specific problem. However, you should not exceed 1000 mcg of vitamin B9 a day.[20]

Sources