What is the Difference Between Folate and Folic Acid?

Anyone who looks at a nutritional label knows there are so many things listed. And checking into actual information on healthy eating expands the list. How can we know what we should be eating? Part of the confusion is some of them are so similar, with names that can be tough to keep track of. Folic acid and folate are a good example. Doctors will tell you folic acid is a necessary part of a healthy diet, and also tell you folate is basically the same thing as folic acid. But is it?

Folate is a very broad term that basically refers to all the B vitamins. Folic acid is a synthesized substance that has long been used to enrich food; to add more nutrient value to it. Folates are the natural version of this, the original form of the artificial additive.

This difference is key, because the body processes them differently. Folates can be absorbed directly, while folic acid needs to be subjected to additional steps by the liver before the body can make use of it. These extra steps can lead to problems if you consume too much folic acid. With it being added to so many foods, that can be a problem that creeps up on you. So keep reading labels, and be aware of what you’re eating. Especially if you’re using vitamin and nutritional supplements.

Key Points:

  • 1Folate is water-soluble vitamin b. Folic acid is an oxidized synthetic compound.
  • 2Folates are changed to THF in the mucous membrane in the small intestane. Folic acid however goes through a pre-methylation and requires dihydrofate reductase, leading folic acid in the systemic circ.
  • 3Folic acid overdose did not happen until 1998 as it was added to food for fortification. This was done mandatory due to evidence of folic acid effects of NTD in newborns.

Despite the risks associated with high levels of folic acid intake, it is well known that consumption of folate in the form of food rich in this compound is essential for good health.

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