4 Key Differences Between Methylfolate and Folic Acid
Are methylfolate and folic acid the same thing? Nope, they're not. Though methylfolate and folic acid are both forms of vitamin B9, there's a pretty simple, yet significant, distinction between the two. — Methylfolate is the more active natural form of folate, while folic acid is synthetic.
Folic acid (pteroylmonoglutamic acid) is a cheaper synthetic form of vitamin B9 used in certain supplements and added to some fortified foods such as flour and breakfast cereals.
Pregnant moms and women who are trying to conceive typically take this synthesized version of folate to prevent neural tube defects (NTD) such as anencephaly (a brain defect) and spina bifida (a spinal cord defect).
Folate came from the Latin word "folium," meaning leaf. So it's no surprise that green leafy veggies and citrus fruits are among the best food sources of folate! The key here is how your body absorbs it. In order for your body to utilize the folate in that veggie quinoa salad bowl, it must first be converted to methylfolate, which your body does a wonderful job at, as methylfolate is the biologically active form of vitamin B9 that the human body can 100% absorb and use after ingestion.
Methylfolate vs. Folic Acid: Which is Better?
Short answer: Methylfolate is better and more efficient than folic acid. Let’s get scientific for a moment, and explain why:
We're all born with the MTHFR gene that our parents passed down to us. It is responsible for producing the enzyme that helps to convert folic acid and some folate (from dietary sources) into the active form,methylfolate. Methyfolate (5MTHF) plays a vital role in a biochemical process called methylation.*
Methylation is the production, detoxification, and DNA protection system that almost every cell of our body depends on. It's a biochemical process that occurs more than 1 billion times per second to keep us alive and healthy. Unfortunately, about 60% of people in the US have a genetic mutation that makes it challenging for the body to create enough methylfolate. Now, if methylation is impaired, unmetabolized folic acid may build up in the bloodstream.
So, What’s the Problem With Too Much Folic Acid?
1. May Interact with Other Medications*
Folic acid can affect how some medicines work. For example, methotrexate, a medication prescribed to treat cancer, becomes less effective when taken with folic acid supplements.* As a result, higher doses might need to be administered to the patient.
Folic acid may lessen the expected benefits of some medications, yet there are also times when certain medicines reduce the body’s ability to absorb folic acid — resulting in further accumulation of UMFA.*
2. May Slow Down Metabolism*
Folic acid requires a two-step process before it's absorbed and utilized in the body. First, it is reduced to dihydrofolate reductase and then to tetrahydrofolate in the liver. Thus, ingesting too much folic acid may slow down our metabolism.*
3. May Cause Vitamin B12 Deficiency*
Vitamin B9 helps in B12 absorption. The excessive UMFA in the body masks vitamin B12 deficiency since the body may show similar symptoms with either of these vitamin deficiencies.* The delayed treatment of B12 deficiency may lead to irreversible damage and megaloblastic anemia.*
4. May Slow Brain Development*
You're probably thinking... Isn't folic acid supposed to help a baby's brain development and prevent neural tube defects?*
The truth is that about 50% of women can't fully absorb folic acid because the MTFHR enzyme in their bodies may not be working efficiently. Whether you're trying to conceive, are already pregnant, or are breastfeeding, it's best to take a prenatal supplement with methylfolate to ensure maximum absorption of this nutrient essential to your baby's development.*
The Solution: Methylated Forms of Supplements
It’s estimated that 60% of individuals in the United States have a common human genetic mutation, the MTHFR gene mutation, that limits the efficiency of a crucial enzyme in the body involved in methylation. MTHFR gene mutation complicates efficient methylation and requires the use of dietary supplements to help rectify this condition.*
Although supplementing with folic acid has proven benefits, especially for pregnant women and their babies, concerns have been raised regarding the potential health consequences of unmetabolized folic acid, including cancer, cognitive impairment, and depression. With all of these drawbacks, preliminary research suggests that supplementing with L-methylfolate rather than folic acid may help to lower these risks.*
Your Best Option: Root’d Multivitamins
Each Root'd pack will give you 100% of the recommended daily intake of folate, in an easy to drink and digest powder drink mix. We use methylfolate, which allows for much better absorption than folic acid.
It's an easy-to-drink MULTI with the perfect blend of organic superfoods, probiotics, enzymes, and 3X sugar-free electrolytes — all of the good stuff to support maximum absorption and keep you healthy and hydrated!
When you’re ready to try something new, save 15% on any Root’d MULTI with code FOLATE15. - Click to shop now.