Folate vs. Folic Acid
For optimum health, we need enough amounts of multiple vitamins and nutrients. There are various vitamins, and vitamin B9 is one of the most important vitamins. Folic acid and folate are forms of vitamin B9. They are very similar and often used interchangeably, but there is a difference between folate and folic acid. Both are linked to vitamin B9, which plays an important role in healthy red blood cells formation and helps to prevent birth defects. Folate refers to multiple forms B9. These include folic acid, tetrahydrofolate, dihydrofolate, and more. The body utilizes vitamin B to make new cells. A folic acid is a manmade form (synthetic) of folate. Food manufacturers include it in various products as it does not occur naturally. Rice, pasta, bread, and breakfast cereals contain folic acid.
Folate is easily converted into vitamin B9 active form in the gut. And for various metabolic purposes, it is absorbed by the body. Folic acid is more heat stable than natural folate. Therefore, folic acid is a better alternative to flour used for bread, pasta, etc., for strengthening food in food fortification. Folic acid is absorbed in two steps. First, folic acid is converted to dihydrofolate and then to tetrahydrofolate. This slows down the utilization of folic acid compared to dietary folate.
In addition, many people have low enzymes levels that convert folic acid into the active form of folic acid in their bodies. This puts them at risk for forming non-metabolized folic acid in the body. Excessively non-metabolized folic acid can lead to various health problems. That is why; folate is a safer option than folic acid. However, if your doctor prescribes folic acid for certain health conditions, its consumption is safe because your body needs it, which cannot be met by just dietary folate. Furthermore, folic acid intake effectively prevents neural tube defects in the baby if the pregnant mother takes it before her pregnancy.
Types of Folate and Folic Acid
Folate is found naturally in a variety of foods. Folate is the form of vitamin B-9; it includes folic acid, DHF, THF, 10-methylenetetrahydrofolate, 5-methyltetrahydrofolate. Folic acid is available in synthetic form. You can consume it by taking some foods and supplements.
Benefits of Folate and Folic Acid
Folate is found naturally in various foods, which reduces the need for supplements. The body easily absorbs folic acid, and it helps to prevent congenital disabilities.
Side Effects of Folate and Folic Acid
Folate is found in natural sources, which are unlikely to cause side effects. The side effects of folic acid are very unusual but may include: loss of appetite, bloating, nausea.
Risks of Folic Acid and Folate
Folate and folic acid may mask a lack of vitamin B12 and interact with some medications.
Importance in Pregnancy
Before conceiving and during pregnancy, both folic acid and folate are vital. Folate high levels can help prevent birth defects. In particular, low folate levels in the blood may increase the risk of neural tube irregularities. These birth defects affect the brain and spinal cord.
Folate and folic acid are linked to vitamin B9, which plays an important role in healthy red blood cells formation and helps to prevent birth defects.