The truth about Folic Acid
Like most women who are trying to conceive or who are already pregnant you are probably very familiar with folic acid and the important role it has to play in pregnancy.
The standard medical advice is that women of child bearing age should supplement with at least 400mcg of Folic acid per day in case of pregnancy. This is to protect the potential baby from suffering neural tube defects such as spina bifida or anencephaly.
Are you familiar with these folic acid facts?
- Folic acid is not bioavailable to the body, only folate present in green vegetables or methylfolate in supplement form may be used by the body without requiring further conversion.
- 40-60% of women and men carry a genetic variant(s) known as MTHFR which means they can't convert folic acid into bio-available folate.
- Other conditions, such as Coeliac disease impair a woman's ability to absorb folate.
- Folate may be just as important for male fertility as it is for women as it is involved in the process of DNA transcription during sperm development.
- Blood levels of Folic acid may test high, but your actual tissue levels of Folate may be low. In other words, you're not converting the folic acid into the folate the body can use, which means biological functions suffer.
- Sadly 99% of the pre-natal formulas on the market currently contain standard folic acid, without any trace of methylfolate, which is what the body really needs.
- Women going for IVF treatment are regularly prescribed high dose Folic acid, which may be completely useless for them if their body can't convert it ino the folate it needs.
- Folate deficiency, combined with B12 deficiency (very common) may lead to pernicious anaemia, where red blood cells are under-developed and tend to be larger than normal.
In view of the recent evidence on this subject, I now recommend to all my patients that they take folic acid in the bio-available form methylfolate to truly minimise their risk for neural tube defect conditions occuring in their future baby.
However, please note, for some women it isn't as simple as just taking the right type of Folate. For those with MTHFR variants, the health picture may be a lot more complex, so self-prescribing is never recommended as it could exacerbate other health symptoms or lead to an imbalance of other vital nutrients if not carried out under professional supervision.