Vitamin B9—folic acid, folacin, folate

Folic acid, also known as Vitamin B9, is also referred to as folacin or folate and its chemical name is pteroylglutamic acid. Folic Acid (Folacin or Folate) is another of the key water-soluble B vitamins. It received its name from the Latin word folium, meaning "foliage," because folic acid is found in nature¹s leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and beet greens. Folacin, a derivative of folic acid, is a dull yellow crystalline substance made up chemically of a pteridine molecule, para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), and glutamic acid. It is actually a "vitamin within a vitamin," with PABA as part of its structure.

Folic acid is very sensitive and is easily destroyed in a variety of ways, such as by light, heat, any type of cooking, or an acid pH below 4; it can even be lost from foods when they are stored at room temperature for long periods. The potency of this B vitamin is diminished in most food processing and food preparation.

Folic acid acts as a coenzyme with vitamins C and B12 in numerous essential metabolic reactions. It acts as a carbon carrier in the formation of heme (iron containing protein in hemoglobin) and is necessary for the formation of red blood cells. Folic acid is required to make "SAMe" (S-adenosyl methionine). It is involved in the synthesis of nucleic acids, is essential for proper growth. 1/2 of all women are deficient in folic acid. Women of child-bearing years should consider folic acid supplementation to avoid the possibilities of bearing children with neural tube defects and birth defects. Helps reduce homocysteine levels (amino acid that encourages arterial plaque buildup). Helps prevent spina bifida, cleft palate and cleft lip formation.

Folic acid is required for DNA synthesis and cell growth and is important for red blood cell formation, energy production as well as the forming of amino acids. Folic acid is essential for creating heme, the iron containing substance in hemoglobin, crucial for oxygen transport.

It is important for healthy cell division and replication, since its involvement as coenzyme for RNA and DNA synthesis. It is also required for protein metabolism and in treating folic acid anemia. Folic acid also assists in digestion, and the nervous system, and works at improving mental as well as emotional health. This nutrient may be effective in treating depression and anxiety.

A deficiency of folic acid in an unborn baby may increase the risk of the baby being born with spina bifida and other serious defects of the nervous system. When deficient of folic acid, you might suffer from fatigue, acne, a sore tongue, cracking at the corners of your mouth (same as deficiency of vitamin B2, vitamin B6 as well as iron). Long term deficiency may result in anemia and later in osteoporosis, as well as cancer of the bowel and cervix.

Pregnant women are sometimes advised to take a small supplement of folic acid to help prevent spina bifida and other congenital nervous disorders, and may also assist to reduce the risk of toxemia in pregnancy, premature labor and hemorrhaging. It is also thought to enhance the production of milk after delivery. Sufferers of psoriasis may consider taking extra folic acid, people under stress or anyone consuming alcohol. Women on birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy may benefit from folic acid, as well as children if they consume goat’s milk instead of cow’s milk.

Fresh green vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli contain folic acid. It is also found in fruit, starchy vegetables, beans, whole grains and liver.