Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid or Folate)

The vitamin, B9, is essential for many bodily functions, and the human body cannot synthesize it; therefore, folic acid has to be supplied through the diet in order to meet their daily requirements. The human body needs folate to synthesize, and to repair DNA, as well as to act as a cofactor in certain other biochemical reactions.

It is especially important in aiding the necessary rapid cell growth and division, such as in infancy and during pregnancy. Both children and adults require folic acid in order to produce good healthy red blood cells and to ward off any possibility of anaemia. The names Folate, or folic acid, both derive their names from the Latin word "Folium" which means 'leaf'.

Folates occur naturally in many foods and, among plants, are especially plentiful in all dark green leafy vegetables. A lack of folic acid in our diet can lead to folate

Green Leafy Lettuce

Deficiency, and this deficiency can result in many health problems, the most notable, and very serious, one being neural tube defects in developing embryos.

These conditions manifest themselves as, Spina Bifida or Anencephaly, in which, due to a deficiency of folic acid, the developing foetus is born without the major parts of the brain, skull and scalp. Mercifully, according to an organisation called (NINDS) The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: a baby born with anencephaly is usually born blind, deaf, unaware of its surroundings, and unable to feel pain.

Studies have shown that a simple daily intake of 450 micrograms of folic acid, in early pregnancy, may prevent the vast majority of neural tube defects. So, if women are trying to become pregnant a very effective, and cheap, folic acid supplement is a wise precaution, both before and after conception.