Folate and Folic Acid, What's the Difference? Which is Healthier?


Medical Video: Importance Of Folic Acid During Pregnancy - Manipal Hospital

Folate and folic acid are two vitamin terms that are often considered the same, but actually not. Although both are consumed with the same purpose, the way to fulfill their intake and effect on health can be different.

Folate and folic acid, what's the difference?

Folate and folic acid are vitamin B9, an essential vitamin needed by the body. Folate is a natural form of vitamin B9 and is found in various types of food, while folic acid is a synthetic form of vitamin B9 consumed in supplement form, and is also an additive to fortified foods labeled 5 methyl-tetrahydrofolate or L-methylfolate.

Source of folate and folic acid from food

In general, adequate folate or vitamin B9 can be obtained from daily food consumption with a small amount of adequacy or around 400 mcg per day. However, consumption of vitamin B9 is very necessary for fetal development in the womb, so pregnant women need folate needs of around 600 mcg per day. Some types of foods containing folate include:

  • Animal-based foods - like beef liver and chicken meat
  • Grains - lentils, lima beans and arabic beans
  • Green vegetables - asparagus, broccoli, okra, kale and spinach
  • Mushrooms - like shiitake mushrooms
  • Fermented foods - such as tempeh and fermented vegetables
  • Citrus fruit preparations
  • Spirulina (is a type of blue-green algae that can be consumed as whole food or in supplement form)

Effects of vitamin B9 deficiency (folate and folic acid)

Vitamin B9 is a type of vitamin that is essential or cannot be produced by the body and can only be obtained from food ingredients. Folate is needed in many bodily organ functions, and has an important role in central nerve function, cell growth and DNA formation.

Vitamin B9 intake is very necessary for fetal development in the womb and can be fulfilled easily with a balanced diet. Folate is needed by babies to prevent congenital defects, prevent low birth weight and occur grow short (stunting), and is needed for perfect face and heart formation.

Although rare, there is a chance that adults experience folate deficiency and are associated with several health problems, including:

  • Anemia
  • Diarrhea
  • Sprue
  • Malabsorption of nutrients
  • Fatigue or fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Hair discoloration becomes grayish
  • Tongue swelling (glossitis)
  • Increased amino acid homocysteine ​​which can have an impact on the health of the cardiovascular system

Folate and folic acid are absorbed in different ways

Although folate is obtained from food, it does not mean that folic acid in supplements is an active form of folate. Folate from food can be absorbed and broken down easily on the small intestinal mucosa, while most folic acid is absorbed and methylated in the liver organs.

The process of breaking down folic acid in the liver organ requires a special enzyme named dihydrofolate reductase. However, these types of enzymes are available in small amounts or rarely found in the body, so the process of solving tends to be slow. Whereas if you consume enough folic acid, then the substance of folic acid that is not metabolized will return to blood circulation.

In terms of metabolism, folate is absorbed in a way that is more efficient than folic acid which triggers buildup in the body. Nevertheless,a study showing consumption of folic acid with other B vitamins such as Pyridoxine (B6) makes the process of solving more efficient.

Side effects of consuming folic acid

The high level of folic acid in the blood will make it difficult to detect vitamin B12 deficiency by means of a blood test. In one literature study also mentioned it is related to vitamin B12 deficiency. Still in the same study, folic acid buildup also affects nerve work and cognitive function causing several disorders such as:

  • Disruption of focus
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Emotional disturbances
  • Decreased libido
  • Causes severe epilepsy

The accumulation of folic acid which cannot be metabolized for a long time can cause systemic health problems, one of which is accelerating the development of cancer. This is found in a research which showed long-term consumption of folic acid was correlated with an increase in cancer lesions in patients with colorectal cancer.

Folate and Folic Acid, What's the Difference? Which is Healthier?
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