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Folate, Folic Acid, and MTHFR

Folate and folic acid sound strikingly similar, but not to be mistaken. There are some clear differences between folate and folic acid.

The Biochemical Necessity of Folate

Otherwise known as vitamin B9, this vitamin is an essential nutrient, necessary for DNA production, protein metabolism, as well as red and white blood cell production. Folate is especially important during pregnancy as it plays a critical role in the prevention of developmental defects [1].

Folate vs. Folic Acid: is there a difference?

Folate is nature's naturally occurring vitamin B9 and can be found in beef liver, spinach, black-eyed peas, asparagus, and brussels sprouts to name a few [2].

Folic acid is the synthetic version of B9, with this version often present in supplements, fortified cereals, breads, and other grains.

Folate and folic acid are both precursors. This means the body is required to convert these precursor forms into a different form - called methylfolate - in order to be used. Herein lies the difference between natural and synthetic B9: Those with a MTHFR gene mutation may experience hampered conversion of folic acid to methylfolate leading to a dangerous excess of inactive folic acid.

If you are one of the 40% of individuals with a mutation in the MTHFR gene, folic acid may not be an optimal source for this essential nutrient [3]. MTHFR stands for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase and is the enzyme responsible for converting folic acid to usable form. In fact, according to Dr. Ben Lynch, expert on MTHFR gene mutations states "folic acid has no known physiological effect on human biochemistry" [4]. MTHFR mutation or not, the unknown ramifications of consuming folic acid are rather alarming, with studies linking high folic acid to cancer [5]!

Since unmetabolized folic acid could prove harmful to a large number of individuals it is important to be aware and do our due-diligence when it comes to our health.

Optimizing Folate Levels:

• Read food and supplement labels carefully for folic acid content.

• Opt for foods containing natural folate: avocado, oranges, lentils, chickpeas, brussels sprouts, celery, broccoli, and sunflower seeds contain folate in addition to the foods mentioned previously [2]

• Opt for supplements containing folinic acid (calcium folinate) and/or L-Methylfolate (aka L-5-MTHF, 6S-5-MTHF) [4]





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