Folate vs Folic Acid

Several articles, news pieces and scientific studies have discussed the importance of folate and folic acid during pregnancy, however they often contain conflicting information. The origin of the confusion is usually that they refer to Folic Acid and Folate interchangeably, but the two are NOT the same.

What’s the difference?

 – Folate is the active form of Vitamin B9 and is the form that is found in natural foods.

 – Folic Acid is the synthetic (inactive) form that does not occur naturally and can be found in most prenatal vitamins and used as an additive in processed or refined foods.

Folic Acid is used in processed foods and multivitamins because it’s cheaper and easier to produce, however the two forms were not created equal and do not have the same effect in the body. Not everyone can convert synthetic Folic Acid into active Folate. In fact, about 50% of the population has difficulty converting synthetic (inactive) folic acid into active folate.

When the folic acid is not converted, it will circulate in the blood serum and not pass into your blood cells where it’s needed. Without that active folate entering the cells, it will aimlessly circulate in the blood serum causing havoc while your baby remains folate deficient and prone to all the issues that come with the deficiency.

The science:

You may have heard others discussing MTHFR issues. This refers to a pattern of Single-nucleotide polymorphism also referred to as an “SNP” or a “Genetic Snip”. This MTHFR mutation is a common genetic variation among people and it means that the people with this mutation cannot convert Folic Acid from its inactive form to the necessary active form (as mentioned above). These people are, in turn, more prone to miscarriage and more likely to produce a child with autism.

This genetic SNP relates to a detoxification pathway called methylation. That 50% of the population who have this methylation issue have a harder time detoxifying. It’s extra important for this group to avoid exposing themselves to toxic substances before and during pregnancy.

What can I do?

First, remember that Folate doesn’t only come in the form of pills! Folate can and should be eaten in the form of leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, avocado, lamb, liver, beets, okra, and many more options. Folic acid fortified foods should also be avoided.

Second, find a prenatal vitamin that uses active and natural forms of all the nutrients it includes. This includes active or methylated folate.

Third, keep toxic substances out of your life. This could be in the form of personal care products, foods and drinks you may be consuming and/or exposure to chemicals at work or in the home. Leading up to pregnancy you could also engage in detoxifying activities such as magnesium baths, dry brushing, jumping rope and so on.

I discuss this topic in detail during the classes I offer: Feed your Fertile Body!™ and Feed Your Pregnant Body!™.

Prenatal multivitamins and detoxification pathways can also be tested on you during one-on-one Nutritional Therapy Consultations. Alternatively, you could call or email me, and I’d be happy to talk through an action plan with you.

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