Vitamin B9 (Folate) for Vegan

vitamin b9 vegan

Overview and Functions

Vitamin B12 and Folate had been discovered for the remedy for megaloblastic anemia as a result of a frantic research. It was discovered in the late 1870s and early in 1880s. The word “Folic” is derived from a Latin word Folium which means leaf.1The term Folate and folic acid are not same. Folic acid is used in fortified foods and supplements and it is considered as a vitamin’s oxidized form. On the other hand, Folate is present in biological tissues and foods in the form of a reduced compound.

What is folate made up of?

  • pterin or Pteridine (2-amino-4-hydroxypteridine)
  • Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA)
  • Glutamic acid

Coenzyme Roles: THF

THP accepts one-carbon units in mitochondria and cystol and they act as a coenzyme. 1

Following are the THF derivatives:

  • 5- and 10-formyl THF
  • 5-formimino THF
  • 5,10-methenyl THF
  • 5,10-methylene THF
  • 5-methyl THF

Amino Acid Metabolism

Folate take part in the metabolism of methionine, glycine, histidine, and serine.

  • Glycine and serine interconversion (5, 10-methylene THF)
  • Glycine breakdown (5, 10-methylene THF)
  • Glycine synthesis (5, 10-methylene THF)
  • Histidine breakdown (5-formimino THF)
  • Methionine synthesis (5-methyl THF)

Methionine Synthesis

5 methyl THF is the form of Folate which is utilized in methionine regeneration from homocysteine. Following reactions convert methionine to homocysteine:

  • First step is the conversion of methionine to SAM (S-adenosyl methionine) via methionine adenosyltransferase.
  • Conversion of SAM into SAH (S-adenosyl homocysteine) via a methyl group acceptor.
  • Finally, the removal of the adenosyl group from SAH makes homocysteine.

In case of low level of SAM, 5 methyl THF and Vitamin B12 team up in the following manner:

  • Methionine synthase and vitamin B12 make bound to generate THF and methylcobalamin.
  • Methyl-cobalamin donated one methyl group to convert homocysteine into methionine.

SAM is a donor and essential for many reactions that’s why it is very important and take part in following processes:

  • Myelin maintenance
  • DNA and RNA methylation
  • Synthesis of catecholamines, polyamine, and carnitine
  • Neural function

SAM concentrations help adjust methionine metabolism along with regenerating methionine from homocysteine. Concentrations increase in tandem with methionine levels which results in:

  • Stimulation of the transsulfuration pathway which irreversibly converts homocysteine to cystathionine via cystathionine synthase (a B6-dependent enzyme) and ultimately to cysteine.
  • Inhibition of methylene THF reductase, which decreases the availability of 5-methyl THF and the remethylation of homocysteine.

DNA Synthesis and Cell Division

THF derivatives take part in nucleotide metabolism, pyrimidine synthesis (5, 10-methylene THF) and purine synthesis (10-formyl THF). Folate plays a vital role in DNA synthesis and cell division. Cells with short lifecycles (e.g. RBCs and enterocytes) are mostly affected by folate status. Folate is used to covert dUMP, DHF and dTMP. The dTMP is used the process of DNS synthesis as a rate-limiting reaction that’s why Folate is important in DNA replication. Folate deficiency cause DNA damage and strand breakage.

Plant-Based Sources of Folate

  1. Green dark leaves.
  2. Legumes. Including, black beans and pinto beans, kidney beans, and lima beans, (1/2 cup) provide 72 mcg or 18% DV.
  3. Brussels sprouts. One cup provides 53.7 mcg or 13% DV.2
  4. Asparagus. One cup provides 69.7 mcg or 17% DV.3
  5. Broccoli. One cup, chopped, provides 57.3 mcg or 14% DV.4
  6. Okra. Half cup provides 36.8 mcg or 9% DV.5
  7. Peanuts. 1 oz. provides 40.6 mcg or 10% DV.6
  8. Fruits such as banana, orange strawberries, and cantaloupe. One cup of strawberries provides 36.5 mcg or 9% DV.7
  9. Enriched bread. One large slice of bread contains 33.3 mcg or 8% DV.8

Recommended Daily Allowance (Needs)

Folate is essential for our body. The adult RDA for folate is 400μg DFE per day for both women and men.22

One DFE is equivalent to the following:

  • One ug Food folate
  • 0.6 ug Folic acid via supplement consumed or fortified food w/meal
  • 0.5 μg Folic acid supplement on an empty stomach


As we know that folate acid is formed to be used in fortified foods and supplements. Folic acid is to be considered as being 100% bioavailable especially if you consume it without eating anything in the morning.

Deficiency Symptoms

Folate deficiency causes anemia which means a lack of production of red blood cells in the short-term, while in the long-term it causes various chronic heart diseases which can lead to dementia.

Impaired DNA Synthesis

  • Megaloblastic Anemia

The primary folate deficiency is prone to cause megaloblastic anemia which is a type of anemia that causes immature and reduced red blood cells. With the help of medication, you can overcome this deficiency and blood cells start working normally.

Signs and symptoms of this type of anemia include

  • Headaches
  • Weakness, fatigue, and shortness of breath
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Heart palpitations

Other manifestations of impaired DNA synthesis include

  • A bright red tongue
  • Thinning of the layers of the GI tract, and shortening of villi height.
  • Diarrhea
  • Impaired nutrient absorption (due to structural changes of the GIT).

Chronic Conditions

1. Alzheimer’s

It is considered as a disorder that affects the person’s memory to grasp thinking which can be due to folate deficiency. There have been medications that can improve the disorder but it cannot be completely healed.

2. Cancer

Folate deficiency unstable folate status has been considered to develop certain types of cancers especially in the lungs and Gl tracts which cannot be cured. However, medications and various types of treatments can improve the stability and growth of cancer, but it can’t be completely healthy at all.

3. Heart disease

Folate deficiency also is one of the main reasons for causing heart diseases. It causes the blood circulation to slow which results in lack of blood being circulated in the heart which can lead to heart attack and lower oxygen levels.

Heart disease may include 

  • Impairment of endothelial function.
  • Promotion of smooth muscle cell growth which may lead to vascular lesions.
  • Promotion of an autoimmune response.
  • Platelet aggregation, clotting, and adhesiveness

The Vegan Diet and Folate Status

Now we can conclude that vegans and vegetarian have more chances to folate deficiency.


  1. Chambers Concise Dictionary. Allied Publishers. 2004. p. 451. ISBN 9788186062364. Archived from the original on 8 September 2017.
  2. Brussels Sprouts, Raw Nutrition Facts & Calories –
  3. Asparagus, Raw Nutrition Facts & Calories
  4. Broccoli, Raw Nutrition Facts & Calories
  5. Okra, Cooked, Boiled, Drained, Without Salt Nutrition Facts & Calories
  6. Peanuts, All Types, Dry-roasted, Without Salt Nutrition Facts & Calories
  7. Strawberries, Raw Nutrition Facts & Calories
  8. Bread, White, Commercially Prepared (includes Soft Bread Crumbs) Nutrition Facts & Calories

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