The Benefits of Folate for Cellular Health

Benefits of Folate for Health

What is Folate?

Folate is the naturally occurring form of Vitamin B9 and is a crucial part of B-complex vitamins. It is present in many different foods. However, because it is water-soluble, it is only stored in small quantities in the human body. If we do not ingest a steady supply, our levels of folate can quickly drop.
This tendency to be deficient means it is necessary to consume folate-rich foods in their raw, natural state. It is also important to take a high-quality daily multivitamin or B-complex supplement which contains folate.
Folic acid (synthetic Vitamin B9) is often added to many processed or fortified foods. It is also present in most lower-cost nutritional supplements. However, the natural version of B9 is the better option whenever possible. Let’s see why natural folate is so important for good health.

Key Benefits

Folate has several key benefits as it has multiple vital roles in the function of the human body:
  • Essential for healthy red blood cell production
  • Used to repair, grow, and divide cells
  • Assists in the production of DNA and RNA
  • Breaks down excess homocysteine (an amino acid that can cause harm if it is present in high levels)
  • During pregnancy, folate greatly reduces the risks of birth defects in the brain or spinal cord. It also reduces the chance of neural tube defects like spina bifida
DNA Structure

Folate v. Folic Acid: Which is Better?

Many individuals will benefit from both versions of B9 (folate and folic acid). Research suggests that some individuals cannot readily convert synthetic B9 into its usable form, 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF), or methylfolate. The inability to make this conversion is primarily due to a dysfunctional mutation in the MTHFR gene.
When functioning normally, the MTHFR gene allows your body to perform vital methylation functions. In addition to converting B9 into methylfolate, other essential processes occur. For example, excess homocysteine is converted into methionine (an amino acid that helps build proteins and repair cells). If the MTHFR gene mutation is present, and it does not function properly, supplementation is often necessary.
With this in mind, it is generally best to stick to folate instead of folic acid.

Natural Sources of Folate

This vital B vitamin is readily available in many foods. However, cooking greatly diminishes folate’s availability. Eat these fruit and vegetables raw, if it is well tolerated:
  • Asparagus
  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Cantaloupes
  • Oranges
  • Tropical fruits such as avocado, guava, mangos, and kiwi
  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Cruciferous vegetables like Brussel sprouts and broccoli
  • Okra
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Organ meats like liver
  • Whole grains
Tropical Fruit

Causes and Effects of Folate Deficiency

Decreased amounts of folate can occur for many reasons. From regularly eating an unhealthy diet to having celiac disease, you can quickly become deficient. Deficits of this essential B vitamin can lead to many health concerns, including:
  • High homocysteine levels (increased risks of cardiovascular disease)
  • Anemia
  • Cellular dysfunction
  • Congenital disabilities
  • Progression of kidney disease
  • Megaloblastic anemia (see picture) is typically associated with folate and vitamin B12 deficiency

( Photo Credit: Marion Fraser, University of Alberta )

Folate Deficiency Could Limit Your Progress

Individuals who are not getting the desired results from a wellness program may need to talk to a healthcare professional. Checking nutritional levels, reviewing your diet, and looking at your physical activity levels may show room for improvement. The healthcare professional can assist you to make necessary adjustments to your lifestyle and wellness regimen.
Adjustments may include addressing potential nutritional deficiencies and reducing the intake of processed foods. Without the correct supplementation and diet, you will not get the full benefits from your wellness program. Proper supplementation should always include the natural and highest-quality versions of vitamins, avoiding synthetic whenever possible. Because folate is essential in the cellular production and repair process, it dramatically influences how the body takes care of itself.
To resolve a folate deficiency, maintain a steady source of folate through diet and supplementation. You should aim for 400 micrograms (mcg) of supplemental methylfolate daily. Pregnant women might need up to 600 mcg of folate daily, but they should consult their healthcare professional.
Close up image of pregnant woman's belly

Toxicity Issues

Folic acid excess in the body can be a concern for some individuals. An accumulation of folic acid usually occurs in several ways. This can happen when a person cannot convert folic acid to methylfolate, or they are ingesting too much. You should not take more than 1000 (mcg) or 1 milligram (mg) of folate or folic acid daily.
B9 toxicity can cause mild to moderate side effects like irritability or an upset stomach and diarrhea. In more severe cases, it can cause dangerous seizures and mental decline.
Since folate is vital to protect and optimize our cellular health, we must consistently get sufficient amounts of this crucial nutrient. A stagnate wellness regimen or various health issues may be due to a folate deficiency.
For an effective addition to your wellness routine, try to avoid low-quality dietary supplements. Instead, utilize multivitamins or B-complex supplements containing folate in its post-converted form (methylfolate). Look for a high-quality multivitamin, like PulseFuel, or a balanced B-Complex vitamin, including the natural form of B12, methylcobalamin.

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