Folate and folic acid are different forms of vitamin B9.
Although there are clear differences between the two, their names are often used interchangeably.
Actually there is also a lot of confusion regarding folic acid and folate, even for professionals.
Being aware of the differences of these two types is very important, because they do not have the same impact on our health.
This article will explain the difference between folic acid and folate
Vitamin B9 is a natural essential nutrient of folate.
Folate serves many important functions in the body. For example, play an important role in cell growth and DNA formation.
Low folate levels are associated with an increased risk of certain dangerous diseases.
- Increased homocysteine: high content has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke .
- Congenital malformations: Low folate levels in pregnant women are associated with birth defects, such as .
- Cancer risk: Poor folate levels are also linked to an increased risk of cancer .
It is for these reasons that vitamin B9 supplementation is very common. Nutritious foods with this type of nutrient are actually mandatory in countries like the US, Canada and Chile.
However, the problem is that supplements and fortified foods contain only folic acid, not folate.
Conclude: Vitamin B9 is an essential nutrient, folate and folic acid are the two main forms of existence today. It is often found in functional foods and is even added to processed foods in North America.
What is folate?
Folate is a naturally occurring form of vitamin B9.
Its name comes from the Latin word "folium," which means leaf. In fact, green leafy vegetables are one of the best sources of everyday folate.
Folate is actually the generic name for a group of related compounds that have similar nutritional properties.
The active form of vitamin B9 is folate, it is also known as or 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF).
In the digestive system, the majority of folate in the diet is converted to 5-MTHF before entering the blood .
Conclude: Folate is a naturally occurring form of vitamin B9. Before going into the bloodstream, the digestive system converts it into a bioactive form of vitamin B9 that is 5-MTHF.
What is folic acid?
Folic acid is a synthetic form of vitamin B9, also known as pteroylmonoglutamic acid.
It is used in functional foods and added to processed food products such as flour and breakfast cereals.
For years, folic acid is thought to absorb much better than naturally occurring folate.
However, a varied diet of folate-rich foods and whole foods has been proven to be almost effective .
Unlike most folate, most folic acid is not converted into active vitamin B9 form, 5-MTHF in the digestive system. Instead it needs to be converted in the liver or other tissues .
However, this process is slow and inefficient. After taking folic acid, it takes time for the body to convert all 5-MTHF .
Even a small dose, such as 200-400 mcg / day may not be fully metabolized until the next dose. This problem is even worse when eating fortified foods along with folic acid supplements .
As a result, non-metabolizable folic acid is often detected in our bloodstream, even when fasting .
This is a cause of concern, because high levels of un-metabolized folic acid are associated with a number of health problems.
However, one study found that taking folic acid along with other B vitamins, especially vitamin B6, made the switch more effective .
Conclude: Folic acid is a synthetic form of vitamin B9. Our bodies cannot convert it into an effective form of vitamin B9, so untreated folic acid can accumulate in the blood.
Is non-metabolizable folic acid harmful?
Some studies show that high levels of non-metabolizable folic acid may have adverse health effects.
- Increased risk of cancer: High levels of non-metabolizable folic acid are associated with an increased risk of cancer. They can also speed up development .
- No shortage of B12 detected: Among the elderly, high levels of folic acid may mask vitamin B12 deficiency. Lack of untreated vitamin B12 may increase the risk of dementia and reduce nerve function .
Even a small daily dose of 400 mcg may cause unconverted folic acid to accumulate in the blood .
While consuming lots of folic acid is a concern, suggestions for health are still unclear and more research is needed.
Conclude: High levels of untreated folic acid can negatively affect health by increasing the risk of cancer or hiding vitamin B12 deficiency. This accumulation is very easy and the whole impact on health is unknown.
What is the most healthy source of vitamin B9?
It is best to take vitamin B9 from pure foods.
Foods rich in folate include asparagus, butter , Brussels sprouts and green vegetables like spinach and lettuce.
However, for some people - such as pregnant women - supplements may be an easy way to make sure you are getting enough vitamin B9.
In these cases, it is best to choose functional foods that do not contain folic acid.
Some functional foods contain 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF), it is considered a healthier alternative to folic acid. Studies have shown that 5-MTHF is equivalent or even better than folic acid .
Supplementation of 5-MTHF is associated with calcium and is often referred to as methyl folate or calcium levemfolate. It is also sold under the brand name Metafolin and Deplin.
Conclude: The most vitamin B9-rich food in the daily diet is pure foods, such as green vegetables. If you need to take supplements, methyl folate is a healthier alternative to folic acid.
There are several clear distinctions between folate and folic acid.
While folate is naturally present in food, folic acid is a synthetic form. The human body does not seem to be able to handle folic acid effectively and it is difficult to convert it into an active form of vitamin B9.
This can cause non-metabolic folic acid accumulation and may have negative health effects. Fortunately, there are many alternatives to folic acid.
They include methyl folate functional foods and many other healthy wholesome foods.