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Folate (Folic Acid) – Vitamin B9

Yes, folate (also known as vitamin B9) is an important nutrient that plays a key role in many different processes in the body. Here are some key things to know about folate:

  • Folate is a type of B vitamin that is important for the synthesis of DNA and the production of red blood cells. It is also necessary for the metabolism of amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins.
  • Folate is found in a variety of foods, including leafy green vegetables, beans, nuts, and tropical fruit.
  • In the US, grain products are also enriched with the synthetic form of folate, called folic acid. This includes wheat products like bread, pasta, cereal, and baked goods as well as corn products like tortillas. 
  • Folic acid, the synthetic form of folate, is safe in low doses but has been linked to health problems at too high a dose, even if the high dose comes from fortified foods. There are safer supplemental forms including folinic acid and 5-LMTHF which is the active form.
  • Folate is important for women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, as adequate intake of folate can help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine.
  • A deficiency in folate can lead to anemia and other health problems.
  • It is important to get enough folate in your diet to support overall health. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for folate varies based on age and sex. Most adults need at least 400 micrograms of folate per day, 600 mcg if they consume alcohol, and pregnant women may need more.
  • It is generally safe to consume folate from natural sources, such as food, but high doses of folic acid supplements or high dose folic acid from fortified foods can interfere with the absorption of certain medications, mimic an MTHFR mutation or in people with existing MTHFR polymorphisms block the folate cycle, cause the buildup of UMFA or unmetabolized folic acid in the blood and may cause other side effects. It is important to speak with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen.

Folate and Health

Folate (also known as vitamin B9) is an important nutrient that plays a key role in many different .processes in the body. Adequate intake of folate is necessary for overall health, and a deficiency in folate can lead to a number of health problems. Here are some specific ways that folate is important for health:

  • Folate is necessary for the synthesis of DNA, which is the genetic material that is present in all cells. Adequate intake of folate is necessary for the proper division and growth of cells.
  • Folate is also important for the production of red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen to the body’s tissues, and a deficiency in folate can lead to anemia, which is a condition in which there are not enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to the body’s tissues.
  • Folate is necessary for the metabolism of amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. Proteins are important for many different functions in the body, including the structure and function of tissues and organs.
  • Folate is important for women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, as adequate intake of folate can help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine.
  • Some research suggests that folate may also play a role in the prevention of certain types of cancer, including breast, colon, and pancreatic cancer.
  • Adequate intake of folate is important for overall health, and the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for folate varies based on age and sex. Most adults need at least 400 micrograms of folate per day, and pregnant women may need more.
  • People with an MTHFR polymorphism have a reduced capacity to convert folate into its active form of 5-LMTHF. Folic acid, the synthetic form of folate, may make this problem worse and so it is important for people with the MTHFR mutation to avoid foods fortified with folic acid, eat foods high in  natural folate, and to supplement only with appropriate forms of folate including folinic acid or 5-LMTHF.

folate and Food Sources

Folate (also known as vitamin B9) is an important nutrient that is found in a variety of foods. Here are some examples of good sources of natural folate:

  • Leafy green vegetables: Spinach, broccoli, kale, and other leafy green vegetables are rich in folate.
  • Legumes: Beans, lentils, and other legumes are great sources of folate.
  • Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds, such as peanuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds, are good sources of folate.
  • Tropical fruits: avocados, pineapples, and other tropical fruits are rich in natural folate.
  • Citrus fruits: Oranges, grapefruits, and other citrus fruits are good sources of folate.
  • Remember also that a number of foods are fortified with the synthetic form of folate, called folic acid. This form is safe in low doses but has been shown to have health risks in higher doses and so excess fortified foods should be avoided. This includes enriched wheat flour and enriched corn flour in products like bread, cereal, pasta, baked goods, and tortillas. All folic acid fortified foods should be avoided if you have an MTHFR polymorphism.
  • Folate is available in supplements as well in several forms including folinic acid, 5-LMTHF, which is the active form, and folic acid, which is only safe in low doses and should not be taken by anyone with the MTHFR polymorphism.

Signs of folate Deficiency and Toxicity

Optimal health. Here are some signs of folate deficiency:

  • Anemia: A deficiency in folate can lead to anemia, which is a condition in which there are not enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to the body’s tissues. Symptoms of anemia can include fatigue, weakness, and pale skin.
  • Mouth sores: Folate deficiency can cause mouth sores or a sore, red tongue.
  • Difficulty concentrating: Folate is necessary for the synthesis of DNA, and a deficiency in folate can affect brain function. This can lead to difficulty concentrating, irritability, and other changes in mood.
  • Loss of appetite: Folate deficiency can cause a loss of appetite and weight loss.
  • Other symptoms: Other symptoms of folate deficiency can include shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, and numbness or tingling in the hands and feet.

It is generally safe to consume folate from natural sources, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts, but high doses of folic acid from fortified foods or supplements can cause side effects. Symptoms of folic acid toxicity can include abdominal pain, diarrhea, and sleep disorders. It has also been tentatively linked to more rapid growth of cancer cells and in pregnant mothers, higher levels of unmetabolized folic acid in the cord blood (also called UMFA) may be linked to higher risk of autism in the baby. It is important to speak with a healthcare provider if you are experiencing any symptoms of folate deficiency or toxicity.

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Amy Neuzil
Amy Neuzil

Dr. Amy Neuzil, N.D. is a leading expert in MTHFR and epigenetics, and she is passionate about helping people achieve optimal health and wellness for their genetic picture. She has helped thousands of people overcome health challenges using a simple, step-by-step approach that starts with where they are today. Dr. Neuzil's unique approach to wellness has helped countless people improve their energy levels, lose weight, and feel better mentally and emotionally. If you're looking for a way to feel your best, Dr. Amy Neuzil can help. Contact her today to learn more about how she can help you achieve optimal health and wellness.

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