Folate (vitamin B9) is a vital nutrient needed to run the folate cycle which facilitates the important function of “methylation”. This supports DNA turnover, vital to prevent foetal neural tube defects. It also manages homocysteine, high levels of which are implicated in cardiovascular risks, neuropsychiatric illness and bone health.
However folic acid is the synthetic form of folate. About a quarter of the population may not convert it to the functional form, and for the rest of the population it’s metabolism is not so well regulated, which could cause excessive levels as well as Vitamin B12 imbalances.
The functional (natural) form of folate is levomefolic acid, or methyltetrahydrofolate. This is now commonly available in supplements, especially the naturopathic practitioner brands.
Another natural form is folinic acid, which is actually the pre-form and will be converted to levomefolic acid on demand only. This is the ideal form because the body will convert as needed, facilitating optimal levels.
It’s most important to support folate supplementation with B12. Here it’s wise to avoid Cyanocobalamin which again, is a synthetic, poorly converted form. Look for the active (natural/functional) forms of methylcobalamin, hydroxocobalamin or adenosylcobalamin.
Nowadays it’s easy to get it right. Simply choose a multi B Vitamin product without folic acid or cyanocobalamin. Look for the folate and B12 as one of fancy names mentioned above. You don’t even have to learn what they are – if you can’t read the complicated name it’s the good one! Every one of the newer multi B’s I’ve seen with active folate and B12 is an excellent formula. If you want to get technical look for a formula with Folinic Acid, this form won’t cause excess levels, whereas the others must be used moderately at recommended dosages.
Avoid folic acid enriched foods if possible.
A side note: The MTHFR (methylation) defect can be assessed by a blood test and remediated with a good multi B as described above. My opinion is that this defect is largely due to compromised liver function rather than a genetic defect. There are many good ways to support liver health such as wise choices of dietary fats (preferably animal), good bile flow, low ‘glycemic load’ meals, and liver herbs.
Until next time, keep safe and be well.
Hugh Wallace Naturopath