What is Folate?
“Folate” is a generic term for a family of functionally and chemically-related compounds. Folate is a water-soluble B vitamin needed for many biological processes and metabolically related to vitamins B12 and riboflavin (vitamin B2).
Primary forms of folate include the folic acid contained in supplements/fortified foods and the folates that occur naturally in foods such as green leafy vegetables and legumes. The folic acid in supplements is labeled as folate per the FDA.
Why is Folate Important?
Folate has a well-established role in reducing the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) and other congenital malformations. Therefore, increased folate intake, through supplements or fortified foods, is recommended before and during pregnancy. (1–3)
In addition, there is growing evidence to support crucial roles for folate in maintaining cardiovascular, cellular, cognitive and bone health. (1)
Bioavailability and Metabolism of Supplemental Folate vs. Food Folates
The higher bioavailability of supplemental folate, compared to naturally-occurring folates in foods, is well recognized. (1,3–5) On average, food-source folate is considered to be half as bioavailable as supplemental folate. (3)
Food folate is found in a conjugated form that must be broken down in the gut prior to absorption, whereas supplemental folate is absorbed as such. But both forms are metabolized to the same form of folate in the body. During their passage across the intestinal wall, both food folate and supplemental folate are metabolized to L-S-methyl-tetrahydrofolate (L-5-methyl-THF).
Why are Methylated Folate Supplements the Better Choice?
Because the folate provided by food is not yet biologically active; the liver has to break it down in order for the body to utilize the nutrient. As such, by supplementing with methylated folate, you are ingesting folate in its most active form, ultimately supporting uptake by the body.
Methylated folate has become more popular in recent years for a variety of reasons. One of the main reasons is because un-metabolized folic acid in the body has been associated with reduced immune system function. (2). Moreover, synthetic folic acid has been found to conceal vitamin B12 deficiency. (6)
Methylated folate has been shown to eliminate these problems. Because methylated folate is already in its active form, the body does not have to convert it, as it is already in the readily absorbable form. It does not conceal any B vitamin deficiencies (6), and it has been shown to be an effective alternative for folate supplementation, especially for pregnant women.
Thus, in order to deliver the most bioavailable, stable, and research-backed ingredients available, Vitalah® currently chooses to use the methylated form of supplemental folate as 5-methyltetrahydrofolate in the following Oxylent® formulas:
- Oxylent® 5-in-1 Daily Multivitamin Drink
- Prenatal Oxylent® Daily Prenatal Multivitamin Drink
- Children’s Oxylent® Daily Multivitamin Drink
- Men’s & Women’s Oxylent® Multivitamin & Mineral + Superfoods Capsules
As we do with all of our ingredients, we will continue to stay current with research in this field to ensure we always deliver formulas of the highest quality to our customers.
- McNulty H, et al. Br J Nutr2008;99Suppl3:S48–54. PMID 18598588
- Smith AD, Kim YI, Refsum H. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008; 87(3):517-33.
- FAO & WHO. Human Vitamin and Mineral Requirements. Reports of a joint FAO/WHO expert consultation 2002;53–65.
- Gregory JF. J Nutr2001;131:1376S–1382S. PMID 11285357
- McNulty H, et al. Proc Nutr Soc2004;63:529–536. PMID 15831124
- Obeid R, Holzgreve W, Pietrzik K. J Perinat Med. 2013; 1;41(5):469-83.