The importance of vitamin B9 (folic acid) in the diet of women

Vitamin B9 (commonly called folic acid, also known as folate, pteroylglutamic acid, folacin) is one of the essential nutrients that we can find in nature in the form of folates. The name comes from the Latin word folium, which means a leaf. Vitamin B9 was discovered in the 1930s. In 1941, it was isolated from spinach leaves, and in 1946 was synthesized by American chemists. 

The biologically active form of vitamin B9 is levomefolic acid, or 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF) – in this form folates are used by our body. Folic acid and folates are different forms of B9. Folic acid is a synthetic form of vitamin B9, whereas folate is, as already mentioned, a natural form found in food. In various sources these names are used interchangeably, although the differences between them (especially in their metabolism are significant), so the determination of vitamin B9 – folic acid is incorrect. The synthetic form of vitamin B9 – folic acid is widely used in dietary supplements and added to food products. 


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Vitamin B9 is a compound that can not be synthesized by humans and must be supplied with food. It performs a number of important functions in the body, and its nutritional deficiencies are one of the most common avitaminoz. Vitamin B9 has a special role in the period preceding pregnancy and in the first trimester of its duration. For this reason, the appropriate amount of it in the diet of women of childbearing age is particularly important. What is the role of vitamin B9 in the body, what are the effects of its deficiency and when and in what form should supplementation be used? 

Features in the body of vitamin B9 

Vitamin B9 is involved in the synthesis of phospholipids, protein methylation and DNA structure, protein synthesis, amino acid transformation and hematopoietic processes (formation of red blood cells, is therefore an antianemic agent), participates in the formation of gastric juice, ensures the smooth operation of the liver, stomach and intestines, protects the body against cancer. A low level of vitamin B9 translates into a high level of harmful amino acid homocysteine, which adversely affects the cardiovascular system. One of the most important functions of vitamin B9 is to reduce the risk of birth defects in fetuses that are associated with abnormal neural tube closure. 

Sources in vitamin B9 food 

Folates are found in both plant and animal products. The largest amount is contained in leaf vegetables (broccoli, lettuce, Brussels sprouts, spinach, kale, kale), wheat germ, bran, asparagus, baker’s yeast, legume seeds. Among the animal products, the liver and egg yolks are particularly rich in folate. 

Daily requirement for vitamin B9 (recommended level of consumption) for various population groups 

Demand for vitamin B9 according to Dietary Reference Intakes determined by the American National Academy of Sciences, Food and Nutrition Board. 

* 1 Recommended daily intake (RDA) – a value that satisfies the needs of more than 97.5% of the healthy population in each age group, both sexes. This value is estimated by statistical methods. 

* 2 Maximum level of intake (UL) – a value that does not cause harmful effects in healthy people, as stated in the studies under medical supervision. 

The effects of vitamin B9 deficiency 

Vitamin B9 deficiency contributes to abnormal fetal development, especially to the formation of neural tube defects and disorders of the proper functioning of the nervous system. Defects of the central nervous system include, but are not limited to, a hernia of the brain and spinal cord, anencephaly or spina bifurcation and spinal cavity. Too low supply of this vitamin along with the diet may also result in megaloblastic anemia (mimetic anemia), low birth weight of newborns, miscarriages and premature births. The studies also showed the influence of insufficient vitamin B9 intake on the increased risk of atherosclerotic and cancerous changes. Girls with puberty, women of childbearing age and pregnant women are particularly at risk for vitamin B9 deficiency. 

(Un) stability and sensitivity of folates derived from food 

Folates are unstable and sensitive to environmental factors such as high temperature (cooking reduces the content of folates by 40-70%), light, oxygen, acidity of the environment. When cooking, for example, spinach, the folate content in it decreases by half. Storage of food products causes the oxidation of vitamins to the less-available derivatives thereof. Technological processing of food products (eg peeling, slicing) also contributes to the reduction of folate content in food. The bioavailability of folate from food can also be limited by many factors such as alcohol, smoking, some medications, contraceptives or diseases of the digestive tract, eg celiac disease. Deficiencies of iron and vitamin C impair the use of folates by the body. 

Why is vitamin B9 particularly important in the diet of women? 

Vitamin B9 is necessary for the proper functioning and growth of all cells. Participates in the production of red blood cells (in the circulatory system) and the brain and spinal cord (in the nervous system). The deficiency of vitamin B9 during the development of the most important systems in the fetus can cause defects in the central nervous system of the fetus. Insufficient amount of vitamin B9 during pregnancy also poses a threat of spontaneous abortions and births of a child with low birth weight. 

When and why is B9 supplementation recommended? 

The high mortality rate, which is caused by congenital malformations and other numerous effects of vitamin B9 deficiency, led to the establishment in 1997 of the Prevention of Wolves in the Nerve Tube. The program aims to raise the awareness and knowledge of women about the importance of vitamin B9 and the effects of its deficiency. Numerous studies have shown that supplementation with B9 vitamin reduces the risk of neural tube defects in the fetus by as much as 70%. The mortality rate for this reason in Poland is the highest in Europe, and the incidence rate is 2.68 per 1,000 births. The Preventive Tolerance Defect Prevention Program provides recommendations on the use of supplementation by women planning pregnancy, women of childbearing age and sexually active women and pregnant women. It is recommended to use 0.4 mg (400 μg) of folic acid daily by women of childbearing age, especially for at least 3 months before the planned pregnancy and the first trimester. It is important to properly saturate the body with vitamin B9 before becoming pregnant, because in the first weeks of fertilization may lead to inadequate processes of fetal brain development. It is worth noting that the B9 reserves in the body are low, and in the period of increased demand, they may be exhausted after just 3 months. Women with an increased risk (that is, women who have had a child with a neural tube defect) are advised to take a tenfold higher dose of vitamin B9, or 4 mg (4000 μg). 


You can read also: Folic acid supplementation – a thin line between prophylaxis and carcinogenesis.

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How to stop hunching?

Most women have their entire lives centered on their waist, breasts and hips. Hardly anyone attaches importance to a simple posture, which is a pity – it turns out that a beautiful sexy woman is one who wears her head high. 


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The civilization disease is slouching – sitting most of the life behind the desk, we are inevitably leaning forward, rounding our arms, we winch to the side. As a result, our body takes on the shape of a question mark, the internal organs are pushing each other and even the growth decreases even a few centimeters. 

I decreased? 

Yes, it’s possible. Everyday stress, walking, standing, wearing heavy nets and, above all, gravity, cause collagen discs between the circles to squeeze and take us millimeters. Normally, most of these losses are recovered during the night during sleep in a horizontal position, but with age and progressive defects of posture some changes become irreversible. 

Especially women who during menopause and after strict weight loss diets often lose bone mass and can observe losses in growth. As if that was not enough, we bend the spine from side to side, rounded the back and push the stomach out, exposing ourselves to pain and a very unpleasant posture. The breasts are sagging, the belly is convex, the figure loses the shapes of femininity … 

What to do with it? 

Few of us who would reach the spine specialist would hear full approval. Usually, it turns out that we do not stick to straight, we have uneven shoulders, arms, hips or knees. In old age, it may cause serious motor problems; for the time being, it takes away our grace and … the chances of success. Studies show that erect people seem stronger, more attractive and even have a higher level of testosterone – a hormone responsible for entrepreneurship, risk taking and libido. 

Mirror, please tell me … 

Most of our faults can be seen in the mirror, but it’s better to ask somebody objective to assess how simple we are. Professionally one looks at the body with a profile to the wall on which an infrared beam is vertically displayed – it should theoretically pass through the middle of the ear, arm, hip, knee and ankle; in practice, this is rare. 

Differences can also be observed at the height of the shoulders and knees while lying on the back with bent legs and feet aligned in one line. Chronic disturbance of the balance line causes tissue mini-injuries and can be correlated with arthritis. That is why it is so important to return to the simple attitude of homo sapiens. 


Standard therapy of curvature of the spine includes exercises strengthening the muscles of the torso and abdomen and buttocks. Depending on the specific problem, we need to stretch some of our muscles, and shorten others to regain our balance. It is not a quick or easy process. 

Of course, there are also plenty of alternative ideas, the most important of which is definitely the reconstruction of everyday activities. Under the supervision of a therapist, we learn to sit, bend, get up, wear, etc. The point is to develop new habits that instead of loading the spine will use the muscles of the limbs keeping the back in a straight line. Every day we usually hear advice to constantly think about getting the abdomen inside, squeezing the buttocks while walking and leaving and connecting the blades. 

An interesting technique of restoring the body to the straight line presents the so-called School of Prazska. In the 1960s, a group of Czech neurologists and physiotherapists developed a method of rehabilitation consisting in imitating the movements of an infant. Turning from side to side, crawling and rolling, we help our neuro-muscular system to return to the original shape. 

There are also dance, visualization and chiropractic techniques that are supposed to bring back relief. The choice depends on us, but the benefit is unquestionable – not only will we avoid many painful things in the future, but above all, we will regain the beautiful, proud attitude of a woman who, regardless of the waist circumference, emanates sex and self-confidence! 


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