Why You Should Ditch Your Folic Acid

by Nita Ewald on February 16, 2017

I published a video about folic acid vs folate on Facebook (PathToFertility) last week and it received so much attention. I also participated as a speaker at the Integrative Fertility Masterclass last Saturday, Feb 11 and questions about folic acid were raised at the Q and A session. I wanted to write an article to explain further.

Folic acid vs folate – are they the same?

Folic acid and folate are different and they are NOT interchangeable. Folic acid is synthetic and is not equal to folate. Folate is a naturally occurring compound, primarily is found in uncooked green leafy vegetables.

Both folic acid and folate need to be converted to methylfolate (5-MTHF), the active form of folate before it can be utilized by your body in so many biological functions (see diagram below).

 

[Diagram is courtesy of Dr. Ben Lynch (MTHFR.net)]

 

Folic acid (found in supplements and fortified processed foods such as flours, pastas, cereals, and breads) can be converted into dihydrofolate (DHF) and the conversion process is slow. Much of the folic acid remains as unmetabolized (UMFA: Unmetabolized Folic Acid).

The natural folate we get from our whole foods comes in the form of dihydrofolate (DHF), which further metabolized into methylfolate (5-MTHF), the only form that is used by the body. As you seen on the diagram, the conversion of DHF to 5-MTHF requires multiples steps and multiple enzymes – the last step requires MTHFR enzyme, an enzyme produced by MTHFR gene.

Why folic acid should avoided?

Since 1998 the U.S. FDA has required food manufacturers to fortify flours and cereals with folic acid. Much of the excess folic acid from the processed foods goes unmetabolized and gets stuck in the Folate Receptor alpha (FRa), the receptor sites on the Blood Brain Barrier. Too much folic acid relative to the available methylfolate (5-MTHF) can prevent methylfolate from getting into the brain. ONLY methylfolate can actually get into the brain through the Blood Brain Barrier way of the FRa.

Avoiding folic acid is especially important for those with MTHFR gene mutation(s). Ironically almost 50% of the world population have this mutation, causing methylfolate to be less available in the body. Click here to learn more about MTHFR gene mutation and how to get tested.

Imagine if you inherited MTHFR C677T gene mutation from both of your parents, which means that you only have about 30 – 40% capacity of converting folate into methylfolate. If your diet consists of folic acid enriched foods such as breads, pasta, and cereals (the typical Standard American Diet) and you take folic acid containing supplements, you will have a lot of folic acid floating around in your body and remains unmetabolized. Those unmetabolized folic acid blocks the receptor sites for methylfolate, causing you all kind of health issues.

Even if you don’t have MTHFR gene mutation, there is no reason to take folic acid when you can get folate naturally from foods.

What is the risk of having excess folic acid?

Unmetabolized folic acid can cause immune dysfunction and other issues. A study on aged female mice fed with diet containing high folic and have significantly lower number of natural killer (NL) cells in their spleens with decreased cytotoxicity immune function (1).

Another study showed that high dose of folic acid contributes to MTHFR deficiency and liver damages in mice(2).

What action can you take?

  1. Discard all folic acid enriched foods. Be an nutrition detective – read the label when you purchase processed foods such as cereals, breads, pastas, snacks, and energy drinks.
  2. Discard all folic acid containing supplements. Choose supplements that contains folate made from whole foods and free from additives and fillers.
  3. Eat folate rich foods such as uncooked green leafy vegetables, lentils, asparagus, broccoli, beets, cauliflower, beans (lima, pinto, garbanzo, kidney, black and navy), cabbage, brussel sprouts, green peppers, summer squash, strawberries, tomatoes, and fennel.
  4. Get tested for MTHFR.
    If you have MTHFR gene mutation, supplementing with folinic acid or methylfolate or mixed of them can bypass the gene mutation. I highly recommend that you work with a qualified practitioner who has knowledge about this topic when supplemented with methylated supplement.

Knowing you have genetic mutations will not only put you in charge of your health, but also positively affect the health of your children and their children.

For more in-depth information, Dr. Ben Lynch, the experts in MTHFR gene mutatios has created a free video discussing folate metabolism (http://seekinghealth.org/gift/). He has written numerous articles related to MTHFR gene mutation and folic acid awareness (mthfr.net).

Figuring out the right supplements for your genetic profile can be overwhelming. And that’s only one piece of the puzzle within your fertility struggle. Remember that you don’t have to do this alone, in fact, it’s impossible to do this by yourself. Schedule a private Path to Fertility Breakthrough Session now and get clarity of what might be blocking you from being able to conceive.

Love and blessings,

Nita

 

References:
1. Sawaengsri H, Wang J, Desautels N, et al. Natural killer cell cytotoxicity is reduced in aged female mice fed a high folic acid diet. The FASEB Journal. 2013; 27: 643.21.

2. Karen E. Christensen, Leonie G. Mikael et al, High folic acid consumption leads to pseudo-MTHFR deficiency, altered lipid metabolism, and liver injury in mice. AJCN, Jan 7, 2015 (/ajcn.114.086603)

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