Mainstream advice is to supplement with folic acid — but here’s why you should actually be opting for folate. Getting this from foods is the optimal approach but to ensure adequate intake, a high quality prenatal can also be a good choice.

Folate is often called a double-edged sword. Folate deficiency is harmful, but excess in the form of folic acid has its own dangers. Just to be clear: folic acid is NOT the same as natural folate. Folate is abundant in green vegetables, beans and other whole plant foods. Synthetic folic acid, which is chemically different than folate, is found in supplements and fortified foods and is twice as absorbable by the human body compared to natural folate.

While the body converts some synthetic folic acid to folate, it has a limited capacity to do so. Much of the remaining folic acid that is not converted circulates in the blood and tissues unmodified. It is unknown exactly what unmodified folic acid does in the human body, but it has the potential to disrupt normal folate metabolism and there is substantial evidence that it can even promote cancer growth. A 2011 meta-analysis of six folic acid supplementation trials found that the incidence of cancers was 21 percent higher in the folic acid supplementation groups than control groups.

Then there’s the issue with how much folate you’ll actually get, if you get this via folic acid. As Gaye Godkin, Consultant nutritionist explains: “The conversion of folic acid to available folate by the body can be tricky, there are a number of enzymatic steps that need to take place in order to achieve this. The enzyme required to make folate bioavailable to the body is called Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase or MTHFR for short. It is now better understood that in some people these enzymes don’t work properly, meaning folic acid may not be metabolised in the body correctly.” In fact, research indicates that the MTHFR gene mutation can affect over 40% of women worldwide.

I started taking the following supplements, which contain folate alongside other nutrients, all from food sources, 3 months prior to conception; >here<

To health and happiness,

Jade, X