Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)
Folate is an important vitamin that is also known as Vitamin B9, but is more generally known as ‘folic acid,’ a synthetic supplementary version. Folic acid is a vitamin that plays an important role in the growth of newborns and is present in low amounts in most plant-based foods. It is also found in higher levels in some countries’ wheat grain owing to fortification.
Folic acid is best recognized as a “pregnancy supplement,” in which women who are expecting to have children take 400 mg of folic acid per day. This is important in preventing ‘neural tube abnormalities,’ which are caused by a lack of folate in the fetus’ neural tube as it develops, and which have been significantly reduced by a combination of dietary fortification and supplementation.
Despite these advantages, folic acid appears to have a possible adverse effect when taken at large levels, unlike other B vitamins. While taking a very large dose of folic acid several thousand times the RDA will not cause immediate harm, it appears that prolonged exposure to levels up to 250 percent the RDA may be associated with a relative increase in the rates of cancer, particularly colon cancer among the elderly; this has been demonstrated by acute increases in the rates of colon cancer when both Canada and the United States introduced fortifolic acid supplements (the rates, of which, have been declining beforehand and ever since). Folate appears to be the B-vitamin where a balance should be sought in daily life, and excessive amounts of supplementary folate should be avoided if not intended for other uses.
Finally, supplements come in three different types: folate, folic acid, and L-methylfolate. Folic acid is the most popular of these vitamins, although it is considered to be harmful if taken in excess. Adding the latter two only creates a partial backlog in these persons, but supplementing L-methylfolate may avoid this genetically unfavorable rate-limiting phase.
How to Take
Depending on which form you choose, you have a few options:
- Use up to 400 DFE as a folate supplement (400 mcg folate)
- Use up to 400 DFE as a folic acid supplement (200 mcg is taken on an empty stomach, 240 mcg if taken with a meal)
- Use between 7.5 and 15 mg of L-methylfolate per day as a supplement.
Low dosages of folate or folic acid, in combination with a balanced diet, are more than enough to support physiological levels of all folate metabolites.
All of the abovementioned appear to be taken once a day and do not appear to rely on any scheduling tactics (single vs. several doses; morning vs. night).