Vitamin B9

Vitamin B9 is essential for certain functions of the body, particularly cell renewal. In which foods is it found? Which population groups are most likely to be consuming inadequate amounts? What are the health risks of this inadequate intake? All the answers to these questions are in this article.

What is vitamin B9?

Vitamin B9 is not one compound but a group of compounds with the same function. This general term includes:

  • folates, naturally found in food,
  • folic acid, which is the synthetic form added to some foods (fortified foods and food supplements).


Why is vitamin B9 important?

Vitamin B9 plays a role in cell growth and renewal. Its presence in sufficient quantity is especially important during the first few weeks of pregnancy, when it helps prevent defects in the embryo's early nervous system (called the neural tube). These could have very serious consequences for development of the brain (anencephaly) and spinal cord (spina bifida).


What are the health risks in the event of a deficiency?

In addition to the risk of embryonic malformation, a vitamin B9 deficiency causes "megaloblastic" anaemia, characterised by the presence of abnormally large red blood cells with poorly differentiated nuclei. It is accompanied by symptoms such as:

  • fatigue,
  • headaches,
  • dizziness,
  • shortness of breath,
  • pallor.

Which population groups are most susceptible to vitamin B9 deficiency?

Because of the risk of serious malformations in unborn children, all women likely to become pregnant must ensure they have an adequate intake of vitamin B9. It is important that vitamin B9 is present in sufficient quantities from the very first day of pregnancy (whether or not this pregnancy is planned).


How can you ensure you get enough vitamin B9?

Vitamin B9 requirements can be met by consuming:

  • pulses (lentils, chickpeas, etc.),
  • green leafy vegetables (spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, etc.),
  • liver.

The list of foods with a high vitamin B9 content can be found in the Ciqual table of nutritional composition of foods.