Folic acid or Folate?

Are you trying to fall pregnant? Perhaps your hair and nails need strengthening. Or maybe a practitioner has told you that you have poor methyl function. So, you need some vitamin B9. But you go to the health shop and there are so many options. The shop assistant doesn’t seem to know the difference. So, you pick anyone, pay and leave.

However, the difference between Folic Acid and Folate is of vital importance.


Folate is derived from the Latin word folium, meaning “leaf”, because of the high folate levels found in leafy greens.

Folate cannot be created within our bodies. This means your folate levels are entirely dependent upon your diet and supplementation. Folate comes from food sources such as spinach, endive, bok choy, romaine lettuce, asparagus, mustard and turnip greens, goose and duck liver, and epazote.

The recommended daily allowance of folate is 400 micrograms (mcg) for an adult and 400 to 800 mcg during pregnancy. Methylfolate is the active form of folate and is most likely to be absorbed and utilized by the body (keep this in mind when buying supplements).

Without adequate folate you might begin to experience the following: fatigue, anxiety, increased risk of miscarriage, thyroid problems, and a condition called folate- deficiency anemia. And, without enough folate during pregnancy, you risk neural tube defects in your baby (including spina bifida).

Folate is necessary for the formation of the DNA bases adenine and guanine. It is required for DNA synthesis, cell formation, and regeneration. A lack of folate during DNA replication can increase the risk of mutations and, therefore, cancer.

Folic acid

Folic acid, on the other hand, is man-made and is added to fortified foods or supplements. Folic acid closely resembles folate and binds to folate receptors. In doing so, it blocks the receptors from binding to natural forms of folate. This reduces the amount of methyl folate within the cell. Consequently, your DNA struggles to methylate and it can lead to the conditions mentioned in the previous paragraph. In fact, elevated folic acid has the potential to stimulate pre-existing cancer cells.

If you have a certain variation of the MTHFR gene, you might not be able to metabolize folic acid at all. (For more on the MTHFR and other genes email For many, it is not enough to merely take a folate supplement. Try reducing all foods that are fortified with folic acid and eat more folate-rich vegetables. There is a myriad of benefits to doing this, both physically and mentally, in the short and the long term.

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