Vitamin B9 is also known as folic acid, and it belongs to the vitamin B complex family. It is essential for the facilitation of metabolic processes in the human body. It aids in the synthesis of nucleic acids as well as the production of heme, which is a pigmented component of hemoglobin, the iron-carrying protein molecule that transports oxygen in red blood cells. Other than performing these essential functions of the human body, vitamin B9 also brings a wide range of other health benefits.
1) Countering Vitamin B9 Deficiency
Deficiency in vitamin B9 can result in symptoms such as loss of appetite, nausea, anemia, diarrhea, weakness, weight loss, malnutrition, headache, mood swing, insomnia, breathing difficulty, heart palpitations, paranoia and memory problems. If no measures are taken to counter vitamin B9 deficiency, a condition called megaloblastic anemia may develop. Sufficient intake of vitamin B9 will help to prevent these symptoms.
2) Preventing Stroke and Heart Disease
It has been proven that folic acid is effective in lowering homocysteine levels in the blood. Homocysteine is a form of amino acid that is present in certain meats, and it can cause damage to arterial walls, which will in turn lead to the occurrence of atherosclerosis. This condition is known to cause diseases such as stroke and heart diseases.
3) Protection Against Lung Cancer
Research has shown that high levels of vitamin B9 can help to prevent lung cancer. An increase in the consumption of vitamin B9 can control the growth of precancerous bronchial cells in people who smoke. Smoking can deplete the supply of vitamins in the body, and low vitamin B9 levels can contribute to the development of lung cancer in smokers as well as ordinary people.
4) Preventing Cervix and Colon Cancer in Women
According to studies, vitamin B9 can improve symptoms of ulcerative colitis, and women who have high levels of vitamin B9 are 60% less susceptible to colon cancer. However, men’s risk of contracting colon cancer remains the same despite increased intake of vitamin B9, and researchers have yet to find out the reason for this.
5) Lowering Risk of Premature Birth and Birth Defects
Increased consumption of vitamin B9 will help pregnant women prevent premature birth and neural tube defects in their babies. Efficient development of the neural tube will contribute to the formation of a baby's healthy spinal cord and brain development. It is also known that deficiency of vitamin B9 in pregnant women can also lead to low birth weight.
In most cases, consuming vitamin B9 will not lead to an overdose. However, large quantities of the vitamin may result in certain side effects, such as nausea, loss of appetite and abdominal bloating. Such symptoms are usually caused by consumption of over 1,500 micrograms of vitamin B9 a day. Prolonged use of large quantities of vitamin B9 can also contribute to the development of folacin crystals in the kidney, which may lead to serious neurological problems. Those who are planning to consume large amounts of the vitamin should seek advice from a physician before they do so.