Do you know the difference between Folic Acid and Folate? The difference is very clear! Folate is natural and found in green leafy vegetables whereas folic acid is synthetic, created in a lab to fortify breads, cereals, and beverages. It was developed in an effort to decrease birth defects in women of child bearing age who were not eating enough folate rich foods. If you did not know that, you are not alone. Many people, even health professionals, do not know the difference.
Some people may even debate that folate and folic acid are basically the same nutrient. However, folic acid is the synthetic form of folate and there is a key difference in the two. This difference, for some people, can significantly impact health and wellness. Research reveals that for some women, especially post-menopausal, and for some men as well, high doses of folic acid may even be detrimental.
What is the difference between synthetic Folic Acid and natural occurring Folate?
Folate is a water-soluble B-vitamin known as B9. Folic acid is an oxidized synthetic compound created in a lab and used in dietary supplements and fortified foods as a replacement for folate. Please read your labels!
Natural occurring folate is needed in many metabolic reactions in the body and it is metabolized in the lining of the small intestine. However, folic acid begins breakdown in the liver and it requires an enzyme called MTHFR, which is found in small amounts. Some people have a gene variation of the MTHFR gene, which provides instructions for making the enzyme called MTHFR (methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase). Having this gene variation makes it difficult, if not impossible, to metabolize folic acid. Thus, increased intake of folic acid, may cause elevated levels of unmetabolized folic acid in the blood stream.
Mandatory fortification of food with folic acid began in 1998 and since then concerns about the risks of cancer and heart disease, associated with regular consumption of folic acid and elevated folic acid levels, have been called into question.
Folate intake from eating folate-rich foods is essential for optimal health. Folate facilitates the development of red blood cells, decreases levels of homocysteine in the blood which decreases risk for cardiovascular disease, and promotes healthy function of the nervous system. Folate is most known for its role in preventing neural tube defects in babies. Therefore, women planning to get pregnant must have good folate levels prior to and during pregnancy. When planning a pregnancy, women should consume between 800 and 1200 mcg of folate per day for many months prior to getting pregnant. Eating chicken or calf’s liver, along with salads filled with leafy greens on a regular basis can get you the amount of folate needed for a healthy baby, but it is difficult to get this from diet alone. So, if you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant talk with your clinician about folate supplementation with 600-800 mcg of folate per day.
Great sources of folate are found in vegetables such as romaine lettuce, asparagus, spinach, turnip, collard, and mustard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, lentils, and parsley.
Please read your labels, get tested for MTHFR gene variation, and eat your greens!
For more advice on how to maximize your health and wellness call 1-352-821-0188
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