Synthetic Folic Acid vs Natural Folate: Does it Matter?

Unlike natural folates found in foods like spinach, (synthetic) folic acid is not found in nature, but it can be converted in the body into the reduced forms of folate that the body uses in many important processes.  Folates are involved in the production of DNA and certain essential proteins, such as methionine. A lack of folate can lead to a buildup of a protein known as homocysteine, which increases the risk for a heart attack.  A lack of folate may also increase the risk of neural tube defects, Alzheimer’s disease, and certain forms of cancer.  Therefore, we started to fortify foods, like breads,  cereals, and pasta in the US with synthetic folic acid.

While neural tube defects have declined, heart disease and cancer have not, many of us have elevated homocysteine levels, and some studies have shown folic acid may be associated with increased risk of cancer. So what is the story?  Does folic acid prevent or increase cancer risk?

The body only has a very limited capacity to convert folic acid into the usable forms of folate.  Consuming too much synthetic folic acid can lead to a build up in the body of unconverted folic acid and this is what can cause problems.  So, I recommend avoiding fortified foods like boxed cereals and many breads and pastas, and you should supplement only with the reduced forms of folate, like 5-methyl-tetrahydrofolate or a blend of natural folates, known as NatureFolate.  The exception may be while pregnant or while trying to get pregnant, when folic acid seems to have prevented neural tube defects.

I also think that supplements should contain the methyl form of vitamin B12 instead of the synthetic form, known as cyanacobalamin.  This synthetic form of B12 must be converted in the body into the active forms, so it is better to consume the active forms, like methyl B12.  And cyanacobalamin contains cyanide.  Mind you, it is a small amount, but I would rather not do this intentionally.

This why the products that we sell in the office, except for the pregnancy multis, contain almost exclusively the natural forms of folate and B12.  This is one more reason why you don’t want to take just any multi vitamin and why it is worth paying for quality products.  Speak to Dr. Weitz or Amber about whether a supplement may be beneficial for you.  Consider scientific blood testing for vitamin, mineral, amino acid, and fatty acid levels to see if you already have optimal levels of nutrients to maximize your long term health.   Homocysteine levels can also be tested as part of an advanced cardiovascular risk panel.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.