The terms folic acid and folate are often used interchangeably, both representing Vitamin B9. Folate is actually the natural form of this vitamin and folic acid is a synthetic form.
Why is Folate/Folic acid Important?
If you’re trying to get pregnant, you’ll more than likely be taking a prenatal multivitamin and will know that folic acid (or folate) is important.
Most women are advised to take it whilst trying to conceive and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Folate is a vital nutrient for pregnancy and fertility, which is why it’s one of the key ingredients in prenatal vitamins. Folate prevents neural tube defects and some heart defects in babies.
The risk for all of these outcomes can be significantly reduced with adequate folate intake through diet and supplementation. The highest food sources of folate are leafy greens, beans, and cruciferous vegetables and most people can get the recommended 200mcg from these foods.
Pregnant women in the UK are advised to consume 400mcg and often get this extra amount from supplements.
But most of the prenatal supplements out there on the market have folic acid, rather than folate, in them.
This may be an issue if you have an “MTHFR gene mutation.”
The Sciencey Bit
Our body absorbs Vitamin B9 in the form of methylfolate. Usually our bodies are able to convert folic acid or folate into this usable form.
It is the MTHFR gene that is responsible for this conversion to methylfolate.
As well as healthy foetal development, our body needs methylfolate for a proper metabolism. If there is not enough methylfolate in the body, it leads to many serious health problems.
All people have two copies of the MTHFR gene – one copy is inherited from the mother and another copy is inherited from the father. Each copy of the gene can be normal or can have a defect – a change in DNA sequence that affects how much protein this gene can produce.
These defects are called mutations. The common mutation in the MTHFR gene is a single change in DNA sequence that reduces the activity of the protein produced. About 10-15% of people have both copies of the gene affected by this mutation.
These people have very low activity of the MTHFR protein in the body. This results into a highly reduced ability of the body to convert folic acid into a usable form and can lead to accumulation of the amino acid homocysteine – which is toxic to the body.
Up to 40% of people are thought to have a mutation in the MTHFR gene!
What Does This Mean For Your Supplements?
Without getting tested, none of us know if we have the MTHFR mutation, Whether you have the gene mutation or not, if you do this simple thing, then you don’t need to worry, and it may improve your chances of bringing a baby to term.
All you have to do is make sure you’re taking the methyl form of folic acid in your prenatal or other supplements. It’s already gone through the conversion process so that your body can utilize it.
Here’s what to look for:
Look at your prenatal ingredients. If it says “folate” or “folic acid” then it’s the WRONG FORM. It should say “methylfolate” (usually it says L-5 tetramethylhydrafolate). I know, that’s a mouthful, just look for the “methyl” in there.
Check with your doctor before starting a supplement regime.
How I Can Help
I’ve been privileged to help many people along their fertility journeys over the last twelve years.
In that time I’ve developed some great resources and treatments to provide the support you might need.
Download this free ebook here:
Are you thinking of trying acupuncture for fertility?
I recommend that you use an acupuncturist that is registered with the BAA. Members of the BAA are guaranteed to have completed full training to degree level and will be covered by most private health insurers. The BAcC is another recommended association.
Get in touch with Eileen here, by phone, by email or by booking a free 15 minute phone consultation:
Call on 07773332553