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Folic Acid vs Folate - The Great Debate

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Folic Acid vs Folate - The Great Debate


When it comes to having a baby folic acid is probably at the top of the list of supplements that couples identify as being an essential dietary factor in fertility and pregnancy.

Most people are surprised then to find out that folic acid is a chemical which is not naturally used in the body.  In fact supplementary folic acid is simply a way to artificially introduce a source of a natural chemical called folate into the system.  

Folate (and more specifically a form of folate called L-methylfolate) is the essential compound in pregnancy which prevents defects in the development of the brain and spine in a growing fetus.  A type of vitamin B, L-methylfolate is required for cellular replication and division and is linked with reduced risks of heart disease, stroke and cancer to name but a few critical functions.

To create the useable L-methylfolate from folic acid supplements, the body has to metabolise synthetic folic acid and other unmethylated folates derived naturally from food or supplements.  

This occurs through a process called methylation, a complex chain of chemical reactions which can easily fall out of balance. Without sufficient methylation, folic acid cannot be effectively converted into its usable form.  

Many people also suffer from a common gene mutation which further complicates the problem.  The MTFHR mutation actively prevents the final stages of methylation due to an enzymatic imbalance, which effectively renders folic acid supplements completely redundant as a source of L-methylfolate.  

So why is folic acid the go to recommendation from the healthcare community?  

Firstly, and most importantly for reproductive health, because it’s better than no folate supplementation at all. Low quality supplements are usually better than nothing.

Secondly, and more importantly to the pharmaceutical/supplement manufacturers, folic acid is extremely cheap to synthesise. Low production cost allows maximum markup, creating a high profit product which can sold in bulk to the masses.

Luckily there are alternatives if you know what you are looking for.

Firstly, dietary sources. Dark leafy greens, soy beans, spinach, broccoli and asparagus are all excellent sources of folate in its natural form which will bypass the need for methylation. However as folate cannot be stored in the body, it is important to eat folate rich dietary elements every day and especially for women trying to conceive, who are pregnant or whilst breastfeeding.

Secondly seeking out a a high quality supplement is an excellent addition to a healthy dietary intake. Look out for supplements which include the usable form of folate, L-methylfolate, instead of folic acid. 

We love the Terranova Prenatal supplement which includes your RDA of L-methylfolate along with a host of vitamins and minerals in natural, bioavailable forms to help to boost your fertile potential and support you through pregnancy.

Most importantly of all, ensure you are taking in some form of folate supplement in addition to your dietary elements. If better quality supplements are not available to you, folic acid is definitely better than nothing. 

| Categories: | Tags: #TTC, folic, acid, folate, l-methylfolate, supplements, pregnancy, diet, pre-natal | View Count: (1309) | Return

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  • From start to finish I had a great experience with the Natural Health and Wellness Clinic. I was being treated with acupuncture to support IVF cycles. Martyn supported me through two cycles and offered a lot of advice, guidance and support through both. He always took time to explain the treatment and any alterations to support the cycle. I always felt a priority when fitting in appointments to fit my IVF schedule. Having used acupuncture before this was a totally different and positive experience. I would't hesitate to use the clinic again myself if required which is the best recommendation I can give. I'm currently pregnant with twins and I thank Martyn for his part in that.*

  • After a year of unsuccessfully trying to conceive, my partner and I decided to give acupuncture a try before moving on to the serious IVF process.  Martyn was very clear and calm in his approach, he gave us acupuncture treatments and herbs along with some changes to our diet and exercise over several months in what he called a preparation period.  The period pain I had experienced every month for as long as I can remember completely disappeared with the treatments and it must have been linked to our problems to start a family as after 5 months we were blessed with success!  I highly recommend Martyn at NHW, I don’t think our little girl would be here without him.*

  • I’ve only had acupuncture once before, but I felt completely at ease with Martyn. He was very thorough with my medical history and in assessing what needed to be worked on. He was also very happy to answer all of my questions. After the session and in the days following I noticed immediate improvements to my back and shoulder pain which I have been suffering with for some years. Martyn was professional, provided a clean, relaxing environment and results that really worked. I will definitely be using his services again.*

  • We contacted the natural health and wellness clinic after we researched acupuncture for IVF. We wanted to give ourselves the best chances of success in our last NHS treatment cycle. After talking to Martyn we started around two months before our transfer was due. Ten weeks later and we are pregnant! I was much more relaxed this time and acupuncture the day before and on the Sunday morning after my procedure seems to have done the trick. We are keeping everything crossed and continuing acupuncture treatments. I wish we had tried acupuncture earlier.*

    Rebecca & DanBath
Please Note - These are reports of personal experiences and do not constitute a guarantee of treatment success.