Vitamin B9 is one of the 8 B vitamins that are essential for our health. In the context of this article, vitamin B9 is a nootropic nutrient that supports your brain function – including your mood, memory, and cognitive performance.
Vitamin B9 comes in many forms. These include folate, folic acid, methyl folate, and others. However, folate is the form of vitamin B9 that you’ll find naturally occurring in foods. Folic acid on the other hand is synthetically made, and many people can’t absorb it well.
That’s why throughout this article, you’ll either see me mentioning vitamin B9 or folate. Just assume I’m talking about the same vitamin.
As a nootropic, folate is needed by your brain to make myelin sheath, a fatty substance that is wrapped around your nerves. Myelin sheaths your nerves, meaning it protects them and promotes their electrical signaling.
Folate is also an important part of the synthesis of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Supplementing vitamin B9 helps you with:
- Brain hormones – Folate is required for your brain to make chemicals that are needed to regulate various cognitive processes.
- Mental well being – Vitamin B9 or folate helps with mood swings and can improve your emotional outlook.
- Overall brain health – Vitamin B9 is integral for amino acid synthesis, DNA and RNA production, gene expressions, and the repair of the myelin sheath.
Read on to find out more about vitamin B9 and its nootropic benefits on your brain.
A Glance at Vitamin B9
Vitamin B9 aka folate is shown to improve energy, social activity, alertness, psychomotor speed, and mood. It’s a critical part of DNA and RNA synthesis, myelin synthesis, and amino acid metabolism. Your brain needs folate to complete the synthesis of various hormones – including ‘the motivation molecule’ dopamine, and ‘the happiness molecule’ serotonin.
- Folate also plays a part in the production of your red blood cells. As such it can aid in sustaining optimal blood flow to your brain, which will help you think clearer.
And if you’re a regular nootropic user, then making vitamin B9 a part of your stack is a great idea. Because this will ensure that you have enough of this foundational nutrient for other nootropic supplements to work properly. What do I mean by this?
Let’s say you take L-Tyrosine, a nootropic amino acid that helps your brain make dopamine. However, for this process (the conversion of tyrosine to L-DOPA, and then dopamine) to complete, you need certain nutrients, among which is vitamin B6, and also vitamin B9.
How Does Vitamin B9 Work in Your Brain?
Two main ways:
- Folate promotes neuroplasticity. This is a term that refers to your brain’s ability to change and adapt to novel stimuli and situations. For example, as you start to learn a new musical instrument, your brain creates and shapes new connections. This is how you’re able to actually internalize what you’ve learned.
- Folate helps improve mood. As it’s involved in neurotransmitter synthesis, folate is critical for healthy mental well being and outlook on life.
Who is Vitamin B9 For?
Should you supplement with vitamin B9?
Vitamin B9 is for everyone. It’s an essential nutrient that you must get from outside sources, your body can’t make it. When you’re a child, vitamin B9 helps your brain develop, and during adulthood it maintains healthy brain function. Part of the reason why it’s so important for your brain health is due to its effect on homocysteine.
What is homocysteine, you ask? Simply put, it’s an amino acid we get from foods like red meat. While it’s nothing to worry about in normal amounts, too much homocysteine can actually irritate your blood vessels and create plaque in them. You can see how this can negatively affect your brain blood flow over the long-term.
The good news is, vitamins like B6 and B9 help regulate homocysteine levels. Keeping them under control. On the flip side, by not getting enough vitamin B9, you’re potentially risking having too much homocysteine floating around, which can, over the long-run, contribute to mental decline.
How Vitamin B9 Can Help You
Taking a high quality vitamin B9 supplement, or eating plenty of leafy greens (which are a good source of this nutrient) can help you maintain optimal levels of this vitamin in your blood. This will help balance homocysteine levels, ensuring optimal blood flow to your brain as well as the synthesis of neurotransmitters that regulate your memory, mood, and cognitive processing.
Mechanisms of Action of Vitamin B9
- Supports brain hormones linked to a healthy, bright mood
- Regulates blood levels of homocysteine for optimal brain blood flow
- Reported to help promote alertness, focus, and social function
- Supports long-range memory and mental function
Brain Pathways Targeted by Vitamin B9
It’s no secret that our brain is a complex organ. And so is the way vitamin B9 works in the brain. However, we can break it all down into a few key brain pathways that vitamin B9 modulates.
High quality forms of vitamin B9 like those found in Mind Lab Pro (my current favorite nootropic formula) efficiently turns into L-Methylfolate, which is the active form of vitamin B9 that your body uses to make three critical neurotransmitters: dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin.
This is one of the reasons why low folate levels are suggested to play a part in mood imbalances.
Not only that, but vitamin B9 also acts as a methyl donor to help your body naturally make SAMe, another chemical that will further support your mood.
Brain Protection and Cerebral Circulation
As I’ve said previously, having too much homocysteine causes oxidative stress in your blood vessels. In simplest terms, it can impair circulation that it’s essential for brain health.
And the most interesting of all, having high homocysteine levels is correlated with not getting enough vitamin B9 daily. Both of which are detrimental to mental function.
Taken as supplements, vitamins such as B6, B9, and B12 (all of which are found in Mind Lab Pro that I mentioned before), are shown to effectively bring homocysteine blood levels down.
How does vitamin B9 reduce homocysteine levels? You ask. It’s by helping with the conversion of homocysteine to methionine.
Vitamin B9 Nootropic Studies
Here’s the part of the article where I break down the scientific research behind folate’s nootropic benefits.
Study #1 – Folate Reduces the Risk of Mental Decline
One of the worrying things about folate deficiency is the tripling in the risk of getting dementia in older age. One study, which looked at 518 people aged 65 or older for 2 years, found that those with lower folate levels were much more likely to develop dementia. (1)
Another study compared the “neurological status” of 21 normal vitamin B9-level people compared to 24 vitamin B9-deficiency people. The study found a significant decrease in mental function in folate-deficient people. (2)
Study #2 – Folate to Boost the Success of Antidepressants
Some people who take antidepressants don’t experience much improvement in their symptoms. Over the years researchers did studies to find out why this is the case.
A research team led by Dr. Jerome Sarris did a meta-analysis of numerous clinical trials that used “nutrients” such as vitamin B9 along with antidepressants. To see if these nutrients could influence anti-depressant’s effects. And they did.
The research team found that methyl folate (vitamin B9) boosted the positive effects of these pharmaceuticals. Other nutrients that showed a lot of promise were Omega-3s, SAMe, and vitamin D. (3)
Study #3 – Vitamin B9 Enhances Memory
One study looked into the nutritional status as well as the cognitive health of 260 elderly men and women. It showed that lower folate intake (and blood levels) was significantly correlated with impaired memory and abstract thinking. (4)
In another open study, 38 folate-deficient people with depression and memory loss received 50mg of folinic acid weekly for 4 months. At the end of the study, they showed significant improvements in their symptoms and quality of life. (5)
What Does Supplementing Vitamin B9 Feel Like?
Nootropic users report these benefits after adding vitamin B9 to their stack:
- Increased sociability
- Relief from fatigue and anxiety
- Improved alertness and energy levels
- Less frequent headaches
- Reduced depression
- An enhanced overall sense of well being
How to Get the Most Out of Vitamin B9
You can get vitamin B9 as a powder or in capsules. Studies show us that folate is the more bioactive form of vitamin B9, compared to more synthetic folic acid (which can be found in fortified cereals and bread).
This makes sense since folate is found naturally in our foods. That said, the research is still not conclusive. So some of these notions should be taken with a grain of salt. For many people, folic acid might work just fine.
But if you’re conscious about your health and performance as I am, then you’ll want to get as close to ‘natural’ as possible. For me personally, folate is a superior choice. And I avoid any product that contains folic acid amongst its ingredients.
So how do you find the right multivitamin? One that uses the most bioavailable form of vitamin B9? It’s not easy, there are many low-quality products disguised as premium multivitamins.
Which are The Best Vitamin B9 Supplements?
I prefer Performance Lab Whole-Food Multi as my daily multivitamin. It uses a nature-identical form of vitamin B9, folate, and your body recognizes it as it would recognize folate from food. This is thanks to its BioGenesis technology which includes growing nutrients on probiotic and plant cultures in strict lab conditions – to mimic what nature provides. Performance Lab multi is by far the most advanced multivitamin product I’ve ever seen.
And if you take nootropic supplements to boost your memory, motivation and focus, then Mind Lab Pro is what you’ll want to check. I go in-depth in my Mind Lab Pro review about what it can do for your mental function, but essentially, it uses 11 premium ingredients that optimize multiple brain pathways. This includes neurotransmitters, brain cell growth, neuroprotection, cerebral blood flow, mental energy, and more.
The daily recommended dosage for vitamin B9 is 500mcg. But make sure to use it in conjunction with other B vitamins, not isolated. Taking one B vitamin alone can deplete vitamins from the same family.
As it’s found naturally in foods, vitamin B9 (folate) is safe, nontoxic, and well tolerated in daily recommended amounts.
However, taking very high amounts of folate or any other type of vitamin B9 may lead to side effects over the long run. This is easy to avoid by simply sticking to what the label on your supplement says – never taking more than recommended.
Anything Else to Consider?
Your body can’t make any vitamin B9 on its own. Because of it, you need to get it either from food or supplements.
Vitamin B9 can be particularly helpful if you have anxiety, low energy levels, and moodiness. As you’ve seen above, folate is shown in multiple studies to help with mental focus, energy, and mood.
But it’s important to take a high-quality form of vitamin B9 to ensure you actually absorb it. Preferably you’ll want a nature-identical vitamin B9 like the one found in Performance Lab Whole-Food Multi or Mind Lab Pro.
Vitamin B9 Memory?
As we’ve seen, vitamin B9 can help with memory. Not only is it needed for the production of memory-regulating neurotransmitters but it also helps balance homocysteine levels. This helps to promote optimal blood flow to your brain that’s needed for healthy memory and cognitive function.
When it comes to nootropics, vitamin B9 is one of those supplements that often gets overlooked. It’s just another vitamin, right? Well, no. Vitamin B9 is far more important than that, just like any other essential nutrient that your body can’t make on its own.
As we’ve seen in this extensive article, vitamin B9 regulates everything from your memory, mental processing to the production of your neurotransmitters.
The point is, if you’re vitamin B9 deficient, you need to address that first. Many nootropics don’t work if you haven’t covered the ‘foundations’ first. By foundations I mean basic vitamins and minerals needed for daily function.
Just make sure to choose a high-quality form of vitamin B9. So your body can fully absorb and use it.
And as always, talk to your doctor before anything else when it comes to addressing any potential health issues.