What Type of Folate Should You Take?
There is a lot of confusion about folate, folic acid, MTHFR gene mutation, and supplementation. I am going to break it down for you in simple terms. I want you to be confident that you are getting enough of the right kind of folate for your body.
Major Players (like in a play)
Folate – water soluble B vitamin also known as B9 or folacin. Folate must be changed to a metabolically active form called methylfolate for our body to use it.
Folate status – amount of usable folate in the body. This is influenced by folate metabolism or how fast and how easily the body can change folate to its active form of methylfolate.
MTHFR enzyme- used to change folate or folic acid into an active form that the body can use.
MTHFR gene – makes the MTHFR enzyme (because they are both MTHFR this can be confusing). Many people have a gene mutation where they do not make enough of the enzyme MTHFR. This affects the folate status in the body.
Folic Acid - synthetic form of folate found in fortified foods and vitamin supplements. Folic acid has no biological activity unless converted into folates.
Methylfolate- active form of folate which goes by several names.
How do we get folate?
Folates are normally found in a wide variety of foods and are commonly consumed through a diet of green leafy vegetables, sprouts, fruits, brewer’s yeast, and animal products such as milk and dairy products, egg yolk and liver.
Unfortunately, folates contained in foods are unstable and susceptible to oxidation; they rapidly lose activity during food processing, manufacturing and storage and have a bioavailability range of 25-50%, depending on the kind of food. Fresh leafy vegetables stored at room temperature may lose up to 70% of their folate activity within three days and cooking it in water can increase the loss to 95%.
Humans cannot make folate and because of its water soluble nature, the body only stores folate to a limited extent. For this reason folate represents a dietary requirement and must be consumed in the diet. Neither folic acid nor food folates are biologically active and need to be converted to the metabolically active form.
So, if you want to get adequate amounts of folate it is important to eat the above foods fresh daily or to supplement with an active form of methylfolate that your body can use.
It is a multistep process to change folate to a useable active form of methylfolate and the enzyme MTHFR is required for this process. Some individuals do not produce adequate or effective amount of MTHFR enzymes due to the gene mutation called MTHFR: a genetic mutation that inhibits the ability of the body to methylate/convert folate or folic acid from the food we eat into the metabolite we need, L-5-Methyltetrahydrofolate. This means some individuals cannot actually use folate or folic acid from any source. For these people, because of the MTHFR gene mutation, they have to get folate in the active form to be able to use folate.
The correct type of folate to take
According to Dr. Ben Lynch an MTHFR expert you want to make sure your active form of methylfolate is the L form of methylfolate, which is a biologically active form, and not the D form of methylfolate, which is not biologically active and is possibly harmful to the liver where it is stored.
Here are the L forms which are well absorbed.
· L-5-MTHF =
· L-Methylfolate Calcium =
Another good form is Quatrefolic which passes the gastric barrier and is absorbed mainly in the small intestine and has higher uptake of folate.
Here are the D forms which are chemically not biologically active forms and possibly harmful to the liver.
These next 3 forms do not say they are L form or 6(S) form so may have more then 1% of the D form, which is hard for the body to use. They may or may not be biologically active methylfolate, so you either need to contact the company and ask or avoid them.
There you go, the specifics on how to know which type of folate you should take. Get my Guide to Supporting Your Body with MTHFR. You can see the types of folate I recommend here.
Email from Dr. Katherine Gardner Yates, D.C. Chiropractor and expert on nutritional principles and natural healing philosophy.
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