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Discovering Vitamin B9 Folic Acid

Pregnant women are often advised by their doctor to take folic acid, which is usually included in her prenatal vitamins, especially during the first trimester of pregnancy. But how important is folic acid to a pregnant woman? Do other people also need to take in vitamin B9 folic acid in their body?

Vitamin B9 is considered to be part of the B-vitamins which are important vitamins in the body. Animals lack the ability to synthesize vitamin B9 so therefore it should always be included in the diet. The folic acid intake by pregnant women is actually for the developing child. The folic acid decreases the incidence of having neural tube defects in the fetus. An example of a neural tube defect is spina bifida. Anemia is also prevented by vitamin B9 not only in the pregnant woman but in every human being.

Although Vitamin B9, also known as folate, is not synthesized by the body, it is found to be abundant in several foods such as leafy vegetables including spinach, lettuce and turnip greens. Peas, sunflower seeds, and beans are also found to be rich in vitamin B9. Most cereals are also found to be fortified with folate, to help kids reach their daily recommended allowance for it.

Vitamin B9 folic acid also plays a role in the synthesis of DNA, in the form of methylenetetrahydrofolate. When levels of folic acid are low, then those areas where cell division and growth occur are also affected. This is mainly the bone marrow. Megaloblast formation will occur in this area because of the increased activity of RNA and protein synthesis and decreased activity of DNA. Megaloblasts are giant blood cells that occur in the bone marrow as a response to the low levels of folic acid.

How can the body’s levels of vitamin B9 folic acid go down? Usually, it is the lack of nutritious food that can cause these levels to drop. Sometimes, the body removes or excretes vitamin B9 faster than its usual rate. An increased exposure of the body to the UV rays of the sun, both natural or from a tanning salon can lead to a deficiency of vitamin B9. When the body needs more vitamin B9 than usual, its levels also drop to signify a deficiency.

These instances include pregnancy and breastfeeding wherein this deficiency should be corrected at once, tobacco smoking, liver disease, anemia, and alcoholism. Other medications may also develop low levels of folic acid in the body. Examples of these medications are medications for convulsions, a diuretic called triamterene, cancer drugs like methotrexate, anti-inflammatory named sulfasalazine, and even metformin, a medication used for type 2 diabetes.

However, having too much vitamin B9 may also hinder the absorption of vitamin B12 and worsen the effects of vitamin B12 deficiency. Malarial treatments are also affected by this increase. Vitamin B9 however has a low toxicity risk wherein about 1mg of folic acid can still be accepted by the adult body. Therefore, it is up to the person to balance out the levels of vitamin B9 in the body as needed.