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Liver, beans and avocados are all good sources of folic acid

The many benefits of vitamin B9, or folic acid

Vitamin B9, also known as folic acid or folate, plays a key role in health, especially during pregnancy. Discover its benefits and in which foods it’s found.

Vitamin B9: a brief overview

Vitamin B9 belongs to the large and diverse group of B vitamins.

This water-soluble vitamin is produced naturally by the body but only in small amounts. It therefore needs to be obtained from the diet too, or from supplementation.

Its role in the formation of blood and metabolism of homocysteine

Vitamin B9 plays an active part in many of the body’s functions. In particular, it supports healthy blood production, especially red blood cells. Indeed, deficiency in folic acid results in abnormalities in red blood cell development (1).

It is also involved in the synthesis of amino acids (2). In addition, folic acid supports the conversion of homocysteine, in combination with a specific enzyme. Excess levels of the amino acid homocysteine is damaging to health (increasing the risk of cardiovascular and neurological problems) (3-4).

Folic acid and psychological stability

Vitamin B9 has a recognized role in maintaining good psychological function. A lack of folic acid may increase irritability, difficulty in concentrating and headaches...

It is also invaluable in helping to combat fatigue.

Vitamin B9 plays a crucial role during pregnancy

The reason folic acid is so important before and during pregnancy is the crucial role it plays in cell division. It’s thought vitamin B9 helps to increase red blood cells in expectant mothers, and support healthy placenta formation and growth of the baby.

Vitamin B9 also encourages the natural growth of maternal tissue during pregnancy, namely the uterus and breasts.

Lastly, supplementing with folic acid reduces the risk of neural tube defects in the baby.

Folates to support the immune system

Deficiency in vitamin B9 destabilises the cell cycle: this can be seen in immune cells. A lack of folic acid prevents the growth and circulation of T lymphocytes.

These leukocytes or white cells are responsible for cellular immunity: they destroy infected cells. A fall in lymphocyte numbers can be reversed by regulating the body’s folic acid levels (5).

Which foods contain vitamin B9?

Vitamin B9 is found in many foods:

  • chicken liver;
  • boiled asparagus;
  • avocados;
  • pulses (broad beans, kidney beans...);
  • nuts including hazelnuts;
  • brie;
  • aromatic herbs, etc. (6)

Folic acid supplements

Vitamin B9 supplementation is recommended in cases of deficiency or in women trying to conceive. Be sure to seek guidance from your doctor. Good supplement choices include SuperFolate, which contains a form of folate that’s particularly well-absorbed by the body.

For a broader B vitamin intake, you could try Coenzymated B Formula, a complex that contains the complete range of B vitamins in their co-enzymated form.


  1. EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA); Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to folate and blood formation (ID 79), homocysteine metabolism (ID 80), energy‐yielding metabolism (ID 90), function of the immune system (ID 91), function of blood vessels (ID 94, 175, 192), cell division (ID 193), and maternal tissue growth during pregnancy (ID 2882) pursuant to Article 13(1) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 on request from the European Commission. EFSA Journal 2009; 7( 9):1213. [22 pp.].
  2. EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA), Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to folate and contribution to normal psychological functions (ID 81, 85, 86, 88), maintenance of normal vision (ID 83, 87), reduction of tiredness and fatigue (ID 84), cell division (ID 195, 2881) and contribution to normal amino acid synthesis (ID 195, 2881) pursuant to Article 13(1) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006. EFSA Journal 2010; 8( 10):1760. [19 pp.].Martínez-González MA, García-López M, Bes-Rastrollo M, et al. Mediterranean diet and the incidence of cardiovascular disease: a Spanish cohort. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2011;21(4):237-244.
  3. Clarke R, Daly L, Robinson K, et al. Hyperhomocysteinemia: an independent risk factor for vascular disease. N Engl J Med. 1991;324(17):1149-1155. doi:10.1056/NEJM199104253241701
  4. Giovanni Ravaglia, Paola Forti, Fabiola Maioli, Mabel Martelli, Lucia Servadei, Nicoletta Brunetti, Elisa Porcellini, Federico Licastro, Homocysteine and folate as risk factors for dementia and Alzheimer disease, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 82, Issue 3, September 2005, Pages 636–643.
  5. Courtemanche C, Elson-Schwab I, Mashiyama ST, Kerry N, Ames BN. Folate deficiency inhibits the proliferation of primary human CD8+ T lymphocytes in vitro. J Immunol. 2004;173(5):3186-3192.
  6. Table Ciqual. ANSES. Consulté en août 2020.



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