Folate and folic acid are different forms of vitamin B9. While there’s a distinct difference between the two, their names are often used interchangeably. There’s even a lot of confusion among professionals about folic acid and folate.
This article answers the question; ‘Is Folic Acid the Same as Folate?’ - Folic Acid Vs Folate.
What is Folate?
Folate is the naturally occurring form of vitamin B9. Its name is derived from the Latin word “folium,” which means leaf. In fact, leafy vegetables are among the best dietary sources of folate.
Folate is a generic name for a group of related compounds with similar nutritional properties. The active form of vitamin B9 is a type of folate known as levomefolic acid or 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF).1https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/folicacid/faqs/faqs-general-info.html
In your digestive system, most dietary folate is converted into 5-MTHF before entering your bloodstream
What is Folic Acid?
Folic acid is a synthetic form of vitamin B9 that’s also known as pteroylmonoglutamic acid. It’s used in supplements and added to processed food products, such as flour and breakfast cereals.
Unlike folate, not all of the folic acid you consume is converted into the active form of vitamin B9 — 5-MTHF — in your digestive system. Instead, it needs to be converted into your liver or other tissues.
Yet, this process is slow and inefficient for some people. After taking a folic acid supplement, it takes time for your body to convert all of it to 5-MTHF.
Even a small dose, such as 200 to 400 mcg per day, may not be completely metabolized until the next dose is taken. This problem may become worse when fortified foods are consumed in addition to taking folic acid supplements.
As a result, unmetabolized folic acid is commonly detected in people’s bloodstreams, even in the fast state
So, Is Folic Acid the Same as Folate? - Folic Acid vs folate
The fundamental difference lies in how your body processes these two forms of vitamin B9. Folate is found naturally in foods like leafy greens, beans, and citrus fruits, and it's readily absorbed by your body.
On the other hand, folic acid requires conversion by the liver and intestines before it can be effectively used, making it slightly less efficient.
Is the folic acid the same as folate? Still want to know more about this? You can watch the video below:
The Impact on Health
Understanding the difference between folate and folic acid is pivotal for health-conscious individuals.
While both contribute to essential bodily functions, some people may have difficulty converting folic acid, which could lead to suboptimal folate levels. Therefore, for certain individuals, a diet rich in folate-containing foods is crucial.
Key Takeaways: How to Make Informed Choices
- Variety is Vital: Incorporate a diverse range of folate-rich foods like leafy greens, lentils, and fortified cereals to ensure you're getting the right balance.
- Check Labels: When considering dietary supplements, read the label carefully. Look for "folate" or "methylfolate," as they are already in the bioavailable form.
- Know Your Needs: If you're pregnant, nursing, or have a condition that affects folate metabolism, consult your healthcare provider for personalized guidance.
Is Unmetabolized Folic Acid Harmful?
Several studies indicate that chronically elevated levels of unmetabolized folic acid may have adverse health effects, including increased cancer risk. High levels of unmetabolized folic acid have been associated with increased cancer risk, though some studies disagree.
No conclusive evidence proves that unmetabolized folic acid plays a direct role. Even a small, daily dose of 400 mcg may cause unmetabolized folic acid to build up in the bloodstream.2https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/folic-acid-vs-folate#bottom-line Although high folic acid intake is a concern, the health implications are unclear, and further studies are needed.
This is a cause for concern, as high levels of unmetabolized folic acid have been associated with several health problems. However, one study suggests that taking folic acid along with other B vitamins, particularly vitamin B6, makes the conversion more efficient.
So, Which is the Healthiest Source Of Vitamin B9?
It’s best to get vitamin B9 from whole foods.
High-folate foods include:
- Brussels sprouts, and
- leafy greens like spinach and lettuce.
However, for some people, such as those who are pregnant, supplements like folic acid are an easy way to ensure adequate vitamin B9 intake. Folic acid is the most common supplemental form of vitamin B9. It can be purchased at many drug stores, as well as online.
Other supplements contain 5-MTHF, which is considered an adequate alternative to folic acid.3https://www.healthshots.com/healthy-eating/nutrition/folic-acid-vs-folate-heres-all-the-differences-you-need-to-know/ Supplemental 5-MTHF is available in the form of levomefolate calcium or levomefolate magnesium. It’s sold under the brand names Metafolin, Deplin, and Enlyte, and it’s available online.
What Bornfertilelady is Saying
Folate is the natural form of vitamin B9 in food, while folic acid is a synthetic form. High intake of folic acid may lead to increased blood levels of unmetabolized folic acid.
Not all folic acid gets converted into an active form of vitamin B9, 5-MTHF. Hence, it needs to be converted into the liver or other tissues. Even small doses of 200-400 micrograms once daily may not be completely metabolized until the next dose is taken. Taking folic acid along with vitamin B6 makes conversion efficient.
As a result, sometimes non-metabolized folic acid is detected in people’s bloodstreams. This needs to be avoided as it has been associated with several health problems.
Some researchers speculate that this may have adverse health effects over time, but further studies are needed before solid conclusions can be reached. Alternatives to folic acid supplements include 5-MTHF (levomefolate) or whole foods, such as leafy greens.
Frequently Asked Questions on Folic Acid and Folate