Discover Why Folate Is Important For Your Health And Vitality

There’s a growing awareness folate is important for your health.

It’s a necessary nutrient at every life stage, from early development in the womb through to adulthood.

This B-group vitamin plays a key role in DNA synthesis and repair, supports cardiovascular health and proper nervous system function, and along with other B-vitamins helps keep red blood cells strong to prevent a certain form of anemia.

Folate is the proper name for this vitamin. But you may have noticed that the terms ‘folate’, and ‘folic acid’ are used interchangeably. The truth is, they are NOT the same. Mother nature made folate, not folic acid.

Let me explain more…

Folic Acid vs Methyl Folate

Fact #1: Folic Acid is the Synthetic Version of Folate That’s Found in Fortified Foods, and Low Cost Nutritional Supplements.

Folic acid is a synthetic form used in fortified foods, and low cost nutritional supplements.

In order for folic acid to be used by the body it must first be converted to a usable form. In contrast, methyl folate is the active form that does not require activation. This is an important point of difference to consider when supplementing with folate.

Discover my top expert tips here: How To Choose The Best Form of Folate {A Naturopath Explains}

Fact #2: Methyl Folate Is The Most Bioavailable Form of Folate

Folate supplements have evolved…and the best nutritional supplements supply methyl folate as it’s far more effective at increasing folate levels in the body.

Discover more here: Folate, Faulty MTHFR and Thyroid Health

What Causes A Folate Deficiency?

Research shows a deficiency can develop for a variety of reasons. This includes;

+ Low dietary intake; as the name indicates richest sources are vegetables (foliage), especially dark green leafy vegetables.
+ Poor absorption due to changes in gut function.
+ Inadequate absorption due to digestive disorders such as Coeliac disease, and inflammatory bowel disease.
+ Smoking.
+ Heavy alcohol consumption.
+ Pregnancy, which places greater demand on adequate folate intake.
+ Impaired folate metabolism due to genetic issues.
+ Certain drugs that block folate synthesis. Example; methotrexate, the oral contraceptive pill, and antacids.

From a clinical perspective, a folate deficiency is associated with lower red blood cell (RBC) folate concentrations, and elevated homocysteine.

Low Folate Intake is Associated with Elevated Homocysteine

If recent blood tests show your red blood cell (RBC) folate concentrations are low, or homocysteine is elevated you should discuss these findings with your healthcare practitioner. This is especially important if you have been diagnosed with the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) genetic defect.

You see, individuals with the MTHFR gene defect are more likely to have trouble effectively converting folic acid into a usable form.

Discover why a faulty MTHFR gene matters to thyroid health here: The MTHFR Gene and Why It Matters To Thyroid Health

How Much Folate Is Important For Your Health?

Changes were recently made to how folate is expressed.

Known as dietary folate equivalents (DFEs), this reflects the higher bioavailability of folic acid when sourced from fortified foods and dietary supplements. At least 85% of folic acid is estimated to be bioavailable when taken with food, whereas only about 50% of folate naturally present in food is bioavailable.

The dietary folate equivalents (DFE) are defined as follows;

  • 1 mcg DFE = 1 microgram (mcg) food folate.
  • 1 mcg DFE = 0.6 microgram (mcg) folic acid from fortified foods or dietary supplements consumed with foods.
  • 1 mcg DFE = 0.5 microgram (mcg) folic acid from dietary supplements taken on an empty stomach.

The Recommend Intake

  • The recommended dietary allowance is set at 400 mcg DFE per day for adults.
  • For pregnant women it’s set at 600 mcg DFE, and 500 mcg DFE during lactation.
  • The tolerable upper intake level of folate is set at 1,000 micrograms per day for adults. This is the equivalent of 1mg of folic acid. To clarify, this recommendation also applies to women who are pregnant, or breastfeeding.

Can You Take Too Much Methyl Folate?

Methyl folate may sound like the perfect solution, but it’s important to carefully consider how much is safe to take.

Generally speaking it’s NOT necessary to take a large amount to be effective. In order to avoid side effects, the general recommendation is to take 400 mcg DFE per day.

If you have been diagnosed with a methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) gene mutation talk to a healthcare practitioner who is an expert in MTHFR genetic polymorphisms and how they impact health. A skilled practitioner will consider your MTHFR status along with all aspects of your health.

Please note:  This information should not be used as a substitute for treatment, or advice from your qualified healthcare practitioner. As always, consult your qualified healthcare practitioner before beginning any new nutritional product, diet, exercise, or health program as they are best suited to make recommendations to support your overall health. This is especially important if you have a diagnosed medical condition, are taking prescription medication, or you have a diagnosed MTHFR genetic issue. Many natural health supplements are not recommended during pregnancy, or breast feeding due to a lack of scientific investigations.


US Department of Health & Human Services. Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Centre. MTHFR gene mutation. Link

National Institutes of Health (NIH), USA. Medline Plus. Herbs and Supplements. Folate monograph. Updated April 20, 2016. Link

Wang B, Shao X, Song R, Xu D, Zhang J. The Emerging Role of Epigenetics in Autoimmune Thyroid Diseases. Frontiers in Immunology. 2017;8:396. Link


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