Folic Acid vs. Folate …?

Folic Acid vs. Folate… 2 very boring interesting terms that I never really wondered about  😉 …

toon304Seriously, who needs to know the difference? And who wants to write a book on the subject? I was given the assignment to study and write on the topic in my herbal course lesson last week … and to be honest, I was surprised at all the amazing things I learned in the process – that are definitely worth knowing!

{Feel free to skip this post if you’re not interested in nutritional inspiration 😉 …}

I’m sure you’ve heard of Vitamin B. But did you know that there’s vitamin B1 (Thiamine), B2 (Riboflavin), B3 (Niacin),  B5 (Pantothenic Acid),  B6 (Pyridoxine), B7 (Biotin), B9 (Folate or Folic Acid) and B12 (Cobalmin)… ?!!

What is the Difference Between Folate and Folic Acid?

Folate and Folic Acid are both a form of the vitamin B9…

Folate is the natural form, found in many of the foods you {hopefully} eat. Folate-rich foods include legumes {beans and lentils}, green leafy vegetables {including lettuce, spinach, asparagus, broccoli, collard greens}, beets, cauliflower  and liver. Folate is also found in whole grains {especially quinoa, wild rice, millet, and amaranth}, but whenever these grains are ground {flour} they lose their protective hull and their delicate oils being to spoil. Up to 45% of the vitamins and minerals may be lost within the first 24 hours, and 90% in 72 hours {which is why you should grind your own wheat fresh, just before baking bread… }

Folic Acid is the oxidized synthetic form, created in a lab, and you will find this in vitamin supplement bottles on the health-food store shelves, or in fortified foods {Folic Acid is added to things like cereal, baked goods, flour, orange juice etc.}.

The problem is, google Folic Acid and you’ll find a list of foods rich in Folate… or you’ll see Folic Acid (Folate)…A lot of people don’t know the difference (including doctors), but Folic Acid is not a sufficient replacement for a Folate deficiency! Here’s why…

What You Should Know About Folic Acid…

  • Folic Acid did not exist until 1943, when it was lab-created as a supplemental form of B9. 
  • Folic Acid is a crystalline substance – unlike any natural vitamin.
  • Folic Acid does not exist naturally in any foods (it is either taken as a supplement, or found in fortified foods).
  • The body can only convert a limited amount of Folic Acid each day, into the natural, useable form – Folate … and this amount falls short of the daily intake of Folate, needed for a healthy lifestyle!
  • Unlike the natural form Folate, excessive Folic Acid accumulation (because the body can only absorb so much Folic Acid each day!) can result in long term serious health issues that take years to resolve!  Studies show that these issues include cancer, serious neurological problems, and lung and prostate cancer.
  • A high intake of Folic Acid can block evidence of a B12 deficiency.
  • In the 1940s it was noted that a diet deficient in Folic Acid actually helped patients with leukemia… and that the daily intake of Folic Acid for protection against cancer, increased the number of cancer patients.

Folic Acid is in Your Food!

“Beginning in January 1998, the B vitamin folic acid will be added to enriched bread, flour, cornmeal, rice, pasta, and other grain products, according to a 1996 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation.cid”

This means every time you eat spaghetti, cereal, baked goods, bread, rice, granola bars, etc… or when you buy flour to bake something, it contains Folic Acid {although the label reads Folate}.

Note: The FDA does not require that Folic Acid be added to all whole-grain products.

The Folate-Rich Diet…

Chris Kresser, licensed acupuncturist and practitioner of integrative medicine, says…

“…{most people} should be able to get plenty of folate in a diet with adequate vegetable consumption, and do not need to supplement…” 

However, “If you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant, I recommend supplementing with 600-800 mcg of folate per day, depending on your dietary intake”

In general, 400 mcg seems to be a good daily intake of Folate; although pregnant women may take as much as 800-1200 mcg per day… and others with varying specific conditions may need an alternative amount.

There is a way to supplement beyond your dietary intake – by taking Folate Supplements vs. Folic Acid. Look for products at your health food store, that list “5-methyltetrahydrofolate” or “5-MTHF” on the label. Avoid products that say “folic acid”, including most multi-vitamins. Dr. Kesser recommends one like this.

Does this mean I should never supplement with Folic Acid?

Remember, a lot of foods in the grocery store have already been fortified with Folic Acid… and most of the supplemental multi-vitamins you might find at the health store probably include Folic Acid. So chances are, you’re getting some everyday!

Folic Acid may be useful as a supplement in specific cases {such as in the case of a severe deficiency requiring a very quick reversal…?}. The evidence is strongly against it in many areas {especially large doses}, but in some cases benefits have been recorded {studies show that grain fortification with Folic Acid resulted in a 25% decrease of spina-bifida}.

A student from my online herbal course forum, suggests that supplementing with Folic Acid “can  be a good thing, in the absence of a better thing,” and that “Those with advanced symptoms of folate deficiency will experience some benefit with supplementation of folic acid; however, supplementation with folic acid is not optimal, particularly for the long-term correction of an inadequate diet.”

Note: This is a very controversial topic, and should you choose to do your own research you will find plenty of sources stating that Folic Acid is more quickly absorbed into the body {although, is faster necessarily good?}, or that it is absolutely essential {especially for pregnant women}… I am not a doctor or medical professional, and this post is the result of my own personal research and study. I’d love to know your thoughts if you have studied this topic!

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One thought on “Folic Acid vs. Folate …?

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