The Important Difference Between Folate and Folic Acid for Your Health

The essential vitamin B9—aka folate—helps our bodies produce energy by breaking down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins and converting them into energy we can use. However, if you’re looking for a supplement to help make sure you’re getting enough vitamin B9 on a daily basis, you may have noticed that the terms “folate” and “folic acid” are often thrown around seemingly interchangeably. While they are both forms of vitamin B9, they aren’t the same thing.

Read on to learn the key differences between folate and folic acid, so you can make an informed choice about what your body needs when it comes to your health and supplements.

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What is folate?

When you eat foods in their whole forms—such as leafy greens, avocados, beans and citrus fruits—you are consuming folate, the form of vitamin B9 that’s naturally present in foods.

What does folate do?

Folate is needed to produce red and white blood cells in our bone marrow, and it produces both RNA and DNA. It also helps convert carbohydrates into usable energy.

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Which foods are rich in folate?

Some foods that are naturally high in folate are okra, asparagus, leafy veggies (such as spinach, lettuce and broccoli), certain fruits (such as melons, lemons and bananas), orange juice, tomato juice, beans, mushrooms and yeast.

What is folic acid?

Folic acid is a synthetic, water-soluble form of B9. Way back in 1998, the FDA passed a regulation that required food producers to “enrich” certain grain products with folic acid in order to help ensure that people in need had better access and consumed more of the nutrient. That’s why you’ll see it many cereals, flours, cookies, crackers and bakery items

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How does folic acid differ from folate?

While its molecular structure is extremely close to folate, the fact is, our bodies metabolize folic acid differently, because it has to go through two conversions before our bodies understand how to utilize it properly.

First, the folic acid converts to dihydrofolate (DHF). Next, it converts to tetrahydrofolate (THF). Finally, the THF converts to L-methylfolate, which is the form of folate that our bodies need to utilize folate properly.

Unfortunately, research suggests that in the United States, up to 60 percent of the population do not metabolize L-methylfolate properly, which can impair the body’s ability to utilize the folate. Eventually, this could cause a buildup of unused folic acid in the body, which leads to negative health risks, such as an increased risk of cancer or expedited cognitive decline in adults.

The Solution

Many people are able to meet their body’s folate requirement through diet alone, and many others still are able to supplement with folic acid without any issues.

It’s important to self-monitor for signs of a folate deficiency. If you are anemic, a woman of a childbearing age, if you are planning to become pregnant or if you have a history with either alcohol dependence or digestive issues, you may be at risk for having a folate deficiency. If that’s the case, consult your doctor, load up with folate-rich foods, and consider taking a folate supplement, with the ingredient “methylfolate”, rather than “folic acid” on the label.

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53 comments

Linda Wallace
Linda Wallace2 days ago

Thank you.

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Anna R
Anna R4 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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Anna R
Anna R4 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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hELEN h
hELEN hEARFIELD6 days ago

tyfs

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Marija M
Marija M7 days ago

tks for sharing

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Lesa D
Lesa D7 days ago

thank you Lia...

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Jan S
Jan S7 days ago

Thank you

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Christine Stewart

thanks

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Tabot T
Tabot T7 days ago

Thanks you for sharing!

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Renata Kovacs
Renata Kovacs7 days ago

Thank you for sharing,

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