Folic Acid & Folate Absorption

Folate is a water-soluble B vitamin that occurs naturally in food. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate that is found in supplements and added to fortified foods [1].

Folate gets its name from the Latin word “folium” for leaf. A key observation of researcher Lucy Wills nearly 70 years ago led to the identification of folate as the nutrient needed to prevent the anemia of pregnancy. Dr. Wills demonstrated that the anemia could be corrected by a yeast extract. Folate was identified as the corrective substance in yeast extract in the late 1930s, and was extracted from spinach leaves in 1941.

Folate helps produce and maintain new cells [2]. This is especially important during periods of rapid cell division and growth such as infancy and pregnancy. Folate is needed to make DNA and RNA, the building blocks of cells. It also helps prevent changes to DNA that may lead to cancer [3]. Both adults and children need folate to make normal red blood cells and prevent anemia [4]. Folate is also essential for the metabolism of homocysteine, and helps maintain normal levels of this amino acid.

Those who have an enzyme defect may not be helped by folic acid. Folic acid may impede folate absorption on some individuals according to a study titled “The prevalence of folate-remedial MTHFR enzyme variants in humans”:

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