The Health Benefits of Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)

The Health Benefits of Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)


Introduction & Biological Activity

Let’s take a few minutes to talk about the health benefits of Folic Acid (Folate, Vitamin B9). Like all B vitamins, folate plays a role in metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. More specifically, it plays a direct role in nerve and brain function. It aids in the production of genetic material, specifically DNA and RNA, and is critical during periods of rapid growth and cell turnover such as pregnancy, infancy and childhood. Folic acid is also a cofactor for red blood cell production and helps moderate homocysteine.

Folic Acid Supplement Options:

Health Benefits

Prevention of birth defects

This is probably the most well known reason to supplement folate. All pregnant women should be on prenatal vitamins which includes a hefty dose of folic acid. This significantly reduces the risk of birth defects, especially to the brain and spinal cord. The recommended dose for pregnant women is 600 mcg/day.

Heart disease

May directly reduce your risk of coronary artery disease and heart attack (weak evidence). Known to modulate homocysteine levels which have been shown to increase your risk of heart attack and stroke, however supplementing with B vitamins (including folate) has not yet been shown to reduce risk

Dementia, cognitive function and Alzheimer’s disease

Similar to heart disease, elevated homocysteine has been shown to increase the risk of dementia, alzheimer’s disease and decline in cognitive function. Whether supplementing folic acid to lower homocysteine levels can help reduce these risks is not well understood.

Age related Hearing loss

May help, research and data is unclear.


Folks with low levels of folate are more likely to have depression, however studies using folate as a supplement to treat depression have produced mixed results.


Low folate levels are associated with increased risk of cancer of the colon, breast, cervical, pancreatic, and stomach. May also protect against acute lymphocytic leukemia.

Other benefits requiring more research

  • Amenorrhea
  • Anemia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Diabetes
  • Down syndrome
  • Epilepsy
  • Glaucoma
  • Gout
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Glucose intolerance
  • Kidney disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Phenytoin-induced gingival hyperplasia
  • Prevention of pregnancy complications
  • blood clots
  • Vitilgo
  • Fragile X

Recommended Daily Allowance

  • 19 years and older: 400 mcg (RDA)
  • Pregnant women: 600 mcg (RDA)
  • Breastfeeding women: 500 mcg (RDA)


Symptoms include diarrhea, gray hair, mouth ulcers, peptic ulcer, poor growth, and swollen tongue (glossitis).


Very high doses can cause stomach problems, sleep problems, skin reactions, and seizures.

Dietary Sources

  • Greens ( spinach, dark leafy greens, asparagus)
  • Turnip, beets, and mustard greens,
  • Brussels sprouts,
  • Lima beans, soybeans, kidney beans, white beans, mung beans
  • Beef liver,
  • Brewer's yeast,
  • Root vegetables,
  • Whole grains,
  • Wheat germ,
  • Bulgur wheat,
  • Salmon,
  • Orange juice,
  • Avocado, and
  • Milk
  • All grain and cereal products in the U.S. are fortified with folic acid.

Related Links (View All: Vitamins | Minerals | Supplements )

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