Folic Acid vs Folate:
What you need to know

What? Folate and Folic acid are not the same thing?

If you’re completely shocked by this, then join the club.  Just like most people out there, you don’t know that there’s a difference between the two. Folate and Folic Acid are often used interchangeably which is why doctors and nutritionists often mix them up.

What is Folate?

Folate is a group of water soluble b-vitamins, also known as B9. Folate is naturally found in foods such as broccoli, spinach, romaine lettuce, asparagus, beets, chickpeas, oranges, papaya, sunflower seeds, beans and lentils.

Why is Folate important?

Folate helps to make red blood cells and if you don’t have enough folate in system, this can lead to a folate deficiency anemia.

Folate is also very important for infants, children and women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant.  It’s been proven that a lack of folate can lead to birth defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly.

What is Folic Acid?

Folic acid is the oxidized synthetic form of folate. It has been added to many foods such as cold cereals, flour, breads, pasta, bakery items, cookies, and crackers.

What is the big difference?

Folate is processed in the small intestines into tetrahydrofolate. However, folic acid is processed in the liver and needs dihydrofolate reductase (an enzyme) to be processed.  There is a low amount of this enzyme in the liver which means that most of folic acid doesn’t get processed.

One of the major risks associated with an excessive amount of folic acid is the development of cancers.  This excess may stimulate the growth of established neoplasms, which can eventually lead to cancer¹.

In Summary

If your doctor told you to take a folic acid supplement, do your research and ask some questions. Keep in mind that most doctors do not know the difference but asking questions is definitely something that can be beneficial for you (and baby if you’re pregnant).