Choosing the Right Multivitamin: Folate vs. Folic Acid

Written By Brady Wirick

When selecting a multivitamin, the presence of folate rather than folic acid can make a significant difference in the supplement’s effectiveness and your overall health. Understanding the distinction between these two forms of vitamin B9 is crucial, especially in relation to a critical biological process known as methylation.

In short, when choosing a multi, read the label. If the vitamin (or any other food for that matter) contains “folic acid”, do not buy it.

 What is Methylation?

Methylation is a vital metabolic process that occurs in every cell and tissue in our body. This process involves the transfer of a methyl group (one carbon atom and three hydrogen atoms) onto amino acids, proteins, enzymes, and DNA in each of our cells. Proper methylation supports a wide range of bodily functions, including DNA repair, immune function, mood balancing, and detoxification.

Folic Acid vs. Folate: What’s the Difference?

Folic Acid is the synthetic form of vitamin B9, commonly added to processed foods and used in dietary supplements. While it is stable and has a long shelf life, folic acid is not biologically active in the body until it is converted into the metabolically active form.

Folate, on the other hand, is the naturally occurring form of vitamin B9, found in leafy vegetables, fruits, beans, and lentils. It is biologically active and can be directly utilized by your body.

The Concerns with Folic Acid

While folic acid is often marketed as a beneficial supplement, it presents several concerns:

Non-Utilization: Folic acid is not readily usable by the body. It needs to be converted to its active form, tetrahydrofolate (THF), and then to other active forms like methylfolate (5-MTHF). However, this conversion process can be inefficient in many people due to genetic variations in the enzyme MTHFR (methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase).

Blocking Folate Receptors: Perhaps more concerning is that unmetabolized folic acid can compete with folate for transport and binding sites. High levels of unconverted folic acid may block the receptors that are meant to uptake folate, thereby inhibiting the body’s natural ability to utilize the nutrient effectively.

Inhibiting Methylation: Since folic acid needs to be converted into methylfolate before it can participate in methylation, excessive unmetabolized folic acid can potentially lead to a methylation block. This can disrupt many vital biological processes, from DNA synthesis to hormone regulation and detoxification.

Why Choose a Multivitamin with Folate?

Given the potential issues with folic acid, choosing a multivitamin that contains naturally occurring folate or a biologically active form of this vitamin is crucial. Supplements that contain methylfolate (5-MTHF) or folinic acid, a form of folate that doesn’t require conversion by the MTHFR enzyme, are optimal choices.

These forms of folate are immediately ready for use by the body, support efficient methylation, and do not impede the body’s processes like synthetic folic acid can.

Conclusion

Understanding the type of vitamin B9 in your multivitamin is more than just reading labels—it’s about ensuring that you’re genuinely supporting your body’s complex network of biochemical processes. Folate in its bioactive form is essential for effective methylation and overall health. When choosing a multivitamin, opting for one with bioactive folate ensures that you are providing your body with readily usable forms of this vital nutrient, supporting optimal health and wellness.

So what do I recommend? Check out the O.N.E. Multivitamin from Pure Encapsulations from our list of favorites:

https://us.fullscript.com/plans/bwirick-our-favorites

 

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