Folic Acid or Folate for Pregnancy Prep

If you are in the process of trying to fall pregnant or are already pregnant, your doctors’ have most likely recommended that you take a folic acid or folate supplement. Why and which one is the best?

Folate is otherwise known as vitamin B9 and it is commonly found in eggs, legumes, fruit and vegetables.  Levels of folate are generally very low in meat with the exception of beef liver.

Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate and is added to many different processed foods.

Uses of Folate:

  • Folate combined with Vitamin B12 is used by the body to make red and white blood cells in the bone marrow.
  • Processes carbohydrates into energy
  • Shown to assist mood enhancement, memory and behavior
  • Essential in the production of neurotransmitters – serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine
  • Promotes the production of the brain’s sleep hormone – melatonin
  • Important for the production of DNA and RNA
  • Useful to assist with DNA repair
  • Methylation (gene regulation, processing of chemicals and removing toxins, nerve protection)

When is it important to supplement with folate?

  • During times of rapid growth
  • Pregnancy – folate hasd been shown to reduce a baby’s risk of brain and spine defects by around 50% (spina bifida and incomplete skull or undeveloped brain).
  • Adolescence

What reduces folate levels in your body?

  • Alcohol consumption
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Poor nutrition
  • Lupus
  • Kidney failure
  • Medication for psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis – Methotrexate

Dosage:

  • During pregnancy use around 600 – 800 mcg per day
  • During breast feeding around 500 mcg per day

Folic acid must first be converted into its active form, methylfolate, before it can be used by the body.  Folic acid is known to be poorly converted to methylfolate as it needs a particular enzyme, which has limited capacity in order to complete the conversion process.  A person’s genetics can also sometimes get in the way of this process, making it ideal to supplement with the active form which is L-methylfolate (5-MTHF).

In a nutshell, when you are choosing a supplement find one with both L-methylfolate and B12.  Vitamin B2 and B6 are also very important to combine with folate to support its use.  The better quality products available will include all of these in one.

Wishing you all the best in health

Dr Graham

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