Folic Acid vs. Folate – Know Your Iron!
Folate and folic acid are different forms of vitamin B9.
Vitamin B9 is an essential nutrient that naturally occurs as folate.
It serves many important functions in your body. For example, it plays a crucial role in cell growth and DNA formation.
Low levels of vitamin B9 are associated with an increased risk of several health conditions, including:
- Elevated homocysteine. High homocysteine levels have been associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Birth defects. Low folate levels in pregnant women have been linked to birth abnormalities, such as neural tube defects.
- Cancer risk. Poor levels of folate are also linked to increased cancer risk, though higher levels of folate have also been linked with a higher risk of prostate cancer.
For these reasons, supplementing with vitamin B9 is common. Fortifying food with this nutrient is mandatory in many countries.
Folate is the naturally occurring form of vitamin B9 mostly present in green leafy vegetables. Before entering your bloodstream, your digestive system converts it to the biologically active form of vitamin B9 — 5-MTHF.
Folic acid is a synthetic form of vitamin B9 that’s also known as pteroylmonoglutamic acid.
Your body does not convert it into active vitamin B9 very well, so unmetabolized folic acid may build up in your bloodstream.
Even a small, daily dose of 400 mcg may cause unmetabolized folic acid to build up in your bloodstream. This can cause various health issues.
What is the healthiest source of vitamin B9?
It’s best to get vitamin B9 from whole foods.
High-folate foods include:
- Brussels sprouts
- leafy greens like spinach and lettuce
If you need to take supplements, methyl folate is a good alternative to folic acid.