Folic acid (also known as pteroylmonoglutamic acid), is an oxidized synthetic B vitamin compound found in supplements and fortified foods. Curiously, mainstream media & government agencies use the term synonymously with folate, the natural form of vitamin B9.
This has led the entire nation to believe that folic acid is a naturally occurring vitamin (which it isn’t), and that it’s healthy to supplement with (which it isn’t).
Unlike natural folate (which is directly metabolized by the small intestines), folic acid requires the assistance of a specific enzyme called dihydrofolate reductase, which is relatively rare in the body. Subsequently, when people (particularly women of childbearing age) consume large amounts of folic acid through vitamins and fortified foods, the body cannot break it down and elevated levels of unmetabolized folic acid ultimately enters the bloodstream. One of the dangers associated with this boost of folic acid in our systems is that it has been linked to cancer.
According to an article published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurology & Psychiatry, folic acid side effects can include:
Vitamin B12 deficiency-Epilepsy-Changes in sex drive-Lack of focus-Trouble sleeping and Emotional ups and downs. The consumption of folic acid in excess of 400 micrograms per day among older adults resulted in significantly faster rate of cognitive decline than supplement nonusers.
It is important to keep in mind that folic acid was relatively non-existent in our diet until being first introduced in 1943. After it was shown to help prevent the risk of developing neural tube defects in infants, it became part of the mandatory food fortification list in 1998. Until then, humans received their vitamin B9 naturally in the foods that they ate. Folate aids the complete development of red blood cells, reduces levels of homocysteine in the blood, and supports nervous system function.
Some of the symptoms you may experience with a folate deficiency include:
Anemia Canker sores Diarrhea Irritability Fatigue/lethargy Pale skin Premature hair graying Stunted growth Tender, swollen tongue
Foods that contain the highest amount of folate include: Citrus fruits and juices Dark green leafy vegetables Liver Soaked Beans (esp. black beans) Poultry Sprouted ancient grains
You can supplement with folate if your dietary intake is inadequate, or you are pregnant, or if you are on a medication that uses up folate, like oral contraceptives or methotrexate. Just look for supplements that contain the Metfolin brand, or list 5-methyltetrahydrofolate or 5-MTHF on the contents. (these go along with the methylation process I talked about in November) Avoid products that list folic acid in the contents, and make sure to check your multivitamin because most multis contain folic acid and not folate.
Solgar is a good brand, but there are several other brands that typically use 5-MTHF including Designs for Health, Thorne, Metabolic Maintenance and Pure Encapsulations. (all of which are offered at Wellevate)