Folate | Folic Acid | Differences | Pregnancy Benefits | Foods High in Folate

Folic Acid and Folate, what is the difference and why does it matter?

Both are different forms of B9, an essential B vitamin used by the body for maternal tissue growth during pregnancy, as well as normal blood formation, normal immune function, and reducing tiredness and fatigue.

Many people are aware of folic acid in pregnancy due to scientific research showing that folic acid can help reduce the risk of neural tube defects in the developing foetus e.g. spina bifida.

Folate also plays a role in normal homocysteine metabolism and contributes to normal amino acid synthesis, an important factor for heart health. It also contributes to normal psychological function.

Folic Acid is a synthetic or man-made form of vitamin B9, also known as folacin. It is commonly used in supplements and fortified foods. Folate is the naturally occurring form of B9.


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What is Folate?

The word folate is derived from the Latin word ‘folium’, meaning leaf. From this you may have guessed that it is abundant in vegetables, particularly leafy greens such as spinach and kale. Folate can also be found in beans, peas, eggs, and some meats and seafood.

Folate refers to the generic group of compounds that include food-based folate, man-made folate, and folic acid.

Folate is also known as vitamin B9 and is an essential B vitamin. As B vitamins are water soluble, they cannot be stored in the body and must be consumed every day to maintain adequate levels, and thus the same is true of Folate.

Folate helps your body to make red blood cells, and red blood cells carry oxygen to all parts of your body. If you don’t have enough folate, your blood can’t bring enough oxygen to all your tissues and organs. Without enough oxygen, your body cannot work as well as it should.

Folate also supports normal immune function and the reduction of tiredness and fatigue. It is advised that all adults consume a minimum of 400mcg of folate each day with women of childbearing age encouraged to supplement with an additional 400mcg.


What is Folic Acid?

Folic Acid is the man-made form of vitamin B9, and it has a molecular structure that is near identical to folate. Folic acid is used to fortify foods and is found in many supplements, particularly pregnancy supplements. This is because folic acid is molecularly stable.

However for many women, folic acid is more difficult to absorb, and in recent years, increasing evidence has emerged of the advantages of the active form of folate over the synthetic form of folic acid.

As research commenced, scientists began to learn more about the differences between folate and folic acid—differences which can have a big impact on how well the body can process and this essential vitamin.

When taking synthetic folic acid, the body must convert the folic acid into an active form before it can be used. This is done in a multi-step process within the liver and other tissues, leading to concerns that taking very high doses of folic acid may cause unmetabolized folic acid to build up in your bloodstream.

Some studies suggest that pairing folic acid with other vitamins such as B6 can make conversion more efficient, which is known as co-factors.


What Is The Difference Between Folate & Folic Acid?

When we consume folic acid or any folate form, the body must undertake a multistep process to convert the folic acid into an active form that can be used by the body. This involves two conversions, first to dhydrofolate (DHF) and then to tetrahydrofolate (THF). After this the folate is in its active form.

This active form is known as 5-methlyetrahydrofolic (5-MTF) or L-methylfolate which is the useable form for the body. This complex process requires a specific enzyme in the body (MTHFR). Up to 67% of the people globally have a genetic predisposition that reduces their ability to convert folic acid into this useable form.

An adequate dietary intake of folate may lead to suboptimal levels of vitamin B9. For this reason, folate in its active L-methylfolate form is increasingly preferred over Folic Acid in supplements, particularly in pregnancy.

Active Folic uses Quatrefolic, a vegan form of L-methylfolate with clinically proven 3X greater absorption than standard folic acid.



Which Is Better To Take While Pregnant – Folate or Folic Acid?

Research has shown that a low dietary intake of folate increases the risk of delivering a child with neural tube defects (NTD). Since the 1990s, all women of childbearing age, including teenagers, are encouraged to supplement with an additional 400mcg of folic acid each day even if they are not planning a pregnancy.*

It is recommended that women who are planning to conceive take supplemental folate for at least 1 month before conception and continue at that level for the first three months of pregnancy. This is in addition to the folate from food sources which should be consumed through food each day.

In addition to its role in maternal tissue development, folate supports healthy red blood cell formation and immune function—further reason to ensure an adequate intake of folate in pregnancy.

However due to the high percentage of women that cannot convert folic acid into its useable form, pregnant women and those planning to conceive are increasingly opting for active form of folate when choosing a supplement, as it is more bioavailable.



Foods That Are High In Folate

Folate is naturally present in many foods, and folic acid is added to some foods. You can get recommended amounts by eating a variety of foods, including the following.

Folate is naturally present in:

  • Vegetables, especially dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, chard, and mustard greens; asparagus; and brussels sprouts.
  • Meat and seafood including beef liver, lamb, mussels, and crab
  • Eggs, milk, and cheese
  • Fruits and fruit juices (especially oranges and orange juice)
  • Nuts, beans, and peas (such as peanuts, black-eyed peas, and kidney beans)

Folic acid is added to the following foods:

  • Enriched bread, flour, cornmeal, pasta, and rice
  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Fortified corn masa flour (used to make corn tortillas and tamales, for example)

To find out whether a food has added folate, look for ‘folic acid’ or ‘folate’ on its nutrition label.



What To Do If You Are Not Getting Enough Folate From Your Food

If you are unable to meet your daily folate needs through diet alone or are planning to conceive or pregnant, you may choose to supplement with folic acid. New Active Folic provides the nutritionally active form of folate required for optimum absorption.

Active Folic passes the gastric barrier and is absorbed mainly in the small intestine. The carrier is not saturated, and this enables Active Folic to ensure a higher folate uptake.

Active Folic contains the patented Quatrefolic®, a source of L-Methylfolate and is suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Free from artificial preservatives, yeast, gluten, and dairy.



Folic Acid Vs Folate: Conclusion

Folate is the natural form of vitamin B9 in food, while folic acid is a synthetic form.

Folate is particularly important as a prenatal vitamin, as it can help reduce the risk of neural tube defects in a developing foetus when consuming 400mcg a day in addition to you RDI for one month prior to conception and the first three month of pregnancy.

In addition to its role in pregnancy, folate contributes to normal red blood cell production, supports normal immune function and the reduction of tiredness and fatigue.

Folate also plays a role in normal homocysteine metabolism and contributes to normal amino acid synthesis, an important factor for heart health. It also contributes to normal psychological function.

A large percentage of the world’s population, up to 67%, are unable to convert folic acid into the active form usable in the body. Alternatives to folic acid supplements include L-methylfolate (5MTHT) as this is provides folate in its bioavailable form.

Active Folic contains 400mcg of folate in its active L-methylfoate form. It delivers 3X greater absorption than standard folic acid.



*A food supplement is not a substitute for a varied diet and healthy lifestyle.

Folic Acid Vs Folate – FAQ:

What Is Better Folate Or Folic Acid?

Folate is an essential nutrient for humans. Folic acid is synthetic form of folate which can be used as a supplement. Both are important nutrients for pregnant women.

Is Folate Or Folic Acid Better Absorbed?

Folate is more easily absorbed than folic acid. However, both are needed for healthy growth and development during pregnancy.

What Is The Difference Between Folate And Folic Acid?

Folate is an essential nutrient found naturally in foods such as green leafy vegetables, while folic acid is synthetic form of this vitamin which can be taken as a supplement.

What Is The Natural Form Of Folate?

Folate is naturally found in foods such as leafy greens, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and fortified cereals.