There seems to be plenty of confusion around the difference between folic acid and folate.
Let me help clear things up a bit.
Folate is a water soluble B-vitamin, also known as B9, naturally found in food. Folate plays a role in red blood cell synthesis, reduction of homocysteine blood levels (contributes to heart disease), prevents neural tube defects in newborns, and supports optimal nervous system function. Folate is metabolized to tetrahydrofolate (THF) in the small intestine. Foods rich in folate include asparagus, turnip greens, parsley, spinach, romaine lettuce, mustard greens, collard greens, broccoli, beets, cauliflower, and lentils. Yum!
Folate is derived from the word folium (foliage), not factory!
Folic acid is an oxidized synthetic compound utilized in supplements and fortified food products. Folic acid is converted to L-methylfolate through multiple enzymatic reactions in the liver. The final reaction is carried out by the methyltetrahydrofolate (MTHFR) enzyme.
Research has shown that approximately 40-60% of the population have inadequate MTHFR activity and therefore end up with unnatural levels of unmetabolized folic acid in their blood. Studies are beginning to demonstrate that long-term excess folic acid levels may be detrimental to health. Additionally, excessive folic acid may potentially mask an underlying anemia or B12 deficiency.
When choosing a good quality prenatal vitamin to supplement with before, during, and after pregnancy, make sure to check the label for folate, not folic acid. You may also see folate listed as
“5-methyltetrahydrofolate” or “5-MTHF”. Try to supplement with at least 800mcg of folate per day. A good quality EPA/DHA omega oil is also recommended during this time.
Furthermore, it is a great idea to watch out for a long list of nasty non-medical fillers including BHT, polysorbate 80, talc powder, corn starch, shellac, carnuba wax, and all the colours in the rainbow. You do not require these chemicals to grow your little human, I promise. Try to avoid brands such as Pregvit, Materna, Kirkland, Centrum, Life, Jamieson, etc. These contain folic acid, among a bunch of other totally unnecessary ingredients. Most of these are in the form of hard-pressed pills and coated in a heavy layer of wax, so you may be excreting them via bowel movements in full form! Might as well throw your cash money into the toilet and flush.
Our personal favourite brand is Douglas Laboratories. You can find them at the clinic.