Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid) – Chemistry, Functions, Food Sources, Deficiency

Chemistry and Characteristics

Folacin is a generic term for folic acid and other compounds having the activity of folic acid. It consists of three linked components: a pteridine group, para amino benzoic acid (PABA) and glutamic acid (an amino acid). Pure folic acid occurs as a bright yellow crystalline compound, only slightly soluble in water. It is easily oxidised in an acidic medium and is sensitive to light.

Functions

  1. It is required for the synthesis of DNA.
  2. It is also required for normal production of red blood cells in the bone marrow.
  3. It is also required for oxidation of amino acid phenylalanine to tyrosine.

Food Sources

It is present in the free form and the in the conjugated form. Liver, kidney, deep green leafy vegetables are good sources of this vitamin. Cereals provide a fair amount. Vegetables, dairy foods, pork and light green vegetables are poor sources.

Deficiency

Folic acid deficiency results in megaloblastic anaemia, glossitis and gastrointestinal disturbances. Severe deficiency results in infertility or even complete sterility. This anaemia is the second most common cause of nutritional anaemia in India. Deficiency of folic acid during pregnancy leads to Neural tube defects in the foetus.

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