What is the difference between folic acid and folate?
I think it is very important to understand that these are very different compounds.
Folate and folic acid are different forms of B9.
Folate is naturally occurring in our food, whereas folic acid is a man-made, synthetic version. Folic acid lacks a methyl group and this is very significant.
Folate gets converted into its active form within the digestive tract known as 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF). It is able to do this conversion within the digestive tract because it has this methyl group, whereas folic acid lacks that methyl group and is not easily converted into that active form. In order for folic acid to be converted into a methylated, active form that the body can utilize it needs multiple functional genes and multiple functional enzyme pathways and proper cofactors in order for this to happen. Because we cannot effectively convert folic acid into methylated folate, then we end up with a high amount of unmetabolized folic acid in the blood and this can cause a number of different problems in the body. It can increase our rates of cancer, it can lead to an undetected B12 deficiency. An undetected, untreated B12 deficiency, this can increase our risk of dementia and impaired nerve function. This can lead to a pseudo-MTHFR deficiency. It can lead to a functional folate deficiency.
So overall folic acid can actually be harmful to our system.
Folate plays a very important role in terms of how our bodies function.
When levels of folate decrease in our population, we start to see increases in miscarriages and birth defects. The ways we can be taking in natural forms of folate are asparagus, avocados, Brussels sprouts and leafy greens like spinach and lettuce and organ meats such as liver (grass-fed). You can supplement with folate, but you need it in a form that is bioavailable like folinic acid or folate in a methylated form. We need to be avoiding folic acid, which is in processed foods that are fortified with folic acid and avoiding any supplements that contain folic acid.
It is important to understand that folate is the natural form of B9 and folic acid, which we need to be avoiding, is the synthetic form of B9.