Vitamin B-9 (Folate, Folic Acid) Deficiencies, Excesses and Recommendations
Folic acid, the synthetic version of the essential vitamin known as folate, is mostly known by women as a necessary supplement to take during pregnancy. This is because adequate folate levels are necessary to prevent certain birth defects.
Like a few of the others in the B-family of vitamins, adequate folate levels are needed to [indirectly] support proper neurotransmitter function for regulation of cognition and mood. In fact, it has been used in conjunction with the SSRI type of antidepressants to enhance their effectiveness.
There are risks associated with deficiency, and with high doses.
Not everyone’s body is able to convert the synthetic form of folate, i.e. folic acid, to its active form. This is a genetic problem which can cause a folate deficiency, while the victim also suffers from a toxic buildup of unconverted folic acid. Fortunately, this is treatable.
What Could Happen If I Don’t Get Enough Folate?
- Potential birth defects in the children of mothers with folate deficiency.
- Low blood levels of folate are associated with certain types of cancer. R
- Folate deficiency anemia, and its associated symptoms (fatigue, lethargy, pale skin, etc.)
- Folate deficiency in tandem with biotin and b-12 deficiencies has been associated with premature graying of hair. R
Please note that folate deficiency is rare.
However, folate deficiency may not always be the result of an inadequate intake of folic acid. It can also be the result of other things that affect its absorption or utilization:
- Anticonvulsant drugs
- MTHFR gene variation
Symptoms Associated with the MTHFR Gene Variation
- Nerve pain
- Mood swings
- Chronic pain
- Pregnancy complications
- Mental health-related issues R
- Cardiovascular and thromboembolic diseases
Genetic testing can quickly reveal whether or not you have an MTHFR variation.
What Could Happen If You Get Too Much B-9?
Worsen the complications of a b-12 deficiency.
Possible developmental challenges in the children of mothers with excess folate levels. R
Chronic excess levels are associated with increased cancer risk. It is not currently known if this same risk applies when consuming the activate form of folate, rather than the synthetic folic acid.
Intentional overdoses of folic acid have lead to death.
Enjoy plenty of beans, peas, lentils, kale and spinach. It may be more beneficial to get your folate from these foods rather than eating fortified grains.
Little Change Recommended Supplements
If you choose to take a supplement, we generally recommend using a brand that submits to independent, third-party testing, or has been independently tested and approved by Consumer Labs. Most people don’t need to take a folate supplement, but if you do choose to supplement, we recommend the more natural, active form.
Potential Life Enhancements
- Provides adequate folate support for those with MTHFR variant. People with mutations of this specific gene may build up toxic levels of folic acid, while paradoxically suffering from a folate deficiency because their bodies are unable to convert synthetic folic acid to active folate. Testing for this variant has helped to explain some mysterious chronic physical and mental health ailments for some individuals. The high amount of folate typically used to treat this condition should be done under supervised medical care.
- Emotional health. Since folate is indirectly necessary for many neurological functions, some have added folate to their SSRI antidepressant with the goal of increasing the antidepressant effect.