Friday Pearl

Methylated Folate vs. Synthetic Folic Acid

Friday, April 27, 2018

My vision for ideal Medicare is a partnership between the physician, patient, and expanded healthcare team that tackles the root causes of chronic disease and tries to reverse and prevent these problems.   —Christopher Bray, MD, PhD   

Hopefully our Friday Pearl readers are not still taking nutritional supplements that include folic acid, also referred to as vitamin B9, particularly given the vast amount of genomic and enzymatic science suggesting that synthetic folic acid is not biologically active and needs to be converted to the metabolically active 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF) form through a multistep process where methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) plays a key role.

Unfortunately it's also now suggested that around 40 percent of the US population have polymorphic forms of this enzyme and do not produce adequate or effective MTHFR necessary to convert folic acid to the metabolically active form our cells need for optimal health. 

Active folate absorption is essential for appropriate cell division, heart function, DNA synthesis, DNA repair, eye health, brain function, memory, and proper fetal skeletal and brain development. 

Science now suggests that excessive intake of folic acid from supplements and food fortification for those people presenting with a genetic mutation of the MTHFR gene can result in unnatural levels of unmetabolized folic acid entering the systemic circulation. This stresses the liver and also masks vitamin B12 deficiency, which can lead to deterioration of central nervous system function in the elderly. 

Folate, memory and methylation

Among the various problems caused by folate deficiency, cognitive impairment is a considerable health concern due to the exponential increase of aging population and is dictated by a large range of variables, some due to environmental factors including diet, pollution, and others due to genetics such as the polymorphisms of methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) that impairs the folate conversion in the body. 

Methylation is the process involving the transfer of a methyl group to another compound and is often associated with a properly functioning MTHFR gene. Proper methylation enables the body to detoxify potentially risky compounds generated by, or taken into, the body.

5-methyltetrahydrofolate is a universal methyl donor, which means it can safely transfer its methyl group to detoxify or otherwise modify compounds in the body. Optimal methylation is particularly important in eye and brain health. 

People with MTHFR mutations almost always have low glutathione levels, making them more susceptible to oxidative stress, while making them far less tolerant to toxins. This gets worse with age, as the accumulation of toxins and cumulative damage of oxidative stress take their toll on the body. The methylation cycle is also tied directly to production of serotonin and dopamine levels, associated with depression and cognitive impairment.  

Sources of dietary folate include vegetables such as romaine lettuce, spinach, asparagus, turnip greens, mustard greens, parsley, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, and lentils. Some of the best food sources of folate are calf’s liver and chicken liver.

Ellen Troyer, with Spencer Thornton, MD, David Amess and the Biosyntrx staff


The importance of folate intake at all stages of life has been well known for years. However, given that around 40 percent of the US population is suggested to have some type of environmental stressor-related MTHFR gene mutation, with 98 percent of children with autism having an MTHFR genetic mutation inhibiting their ability to turn folate into methylfolate efficiently, more than five years ago members of the Biosyntrx scientific advisory team viewed our folate ingredient choice as vitally important, no matter the extra cost of replacing folic acid with 5-methyltetrahydrofolate as a far safer source of vitamin B9 folate in our multiple vitamin products. 

Unfortunately, folic acid is still being included in overprocessed fortified foods, and in way too many multiples including prenatals, obviously based on raw ingredient price instead of science. Hopefully, that will be changed sooner rather than later.

FYI:  Folate foods rapidly lose activity during processing, manufacturing and storage and have a bioavailability range of 25 to 50 percent, depending on the kind of food. Fresh leafy vegetables stored at room temperature may lose up to 70 percent of their folate activity within three days and a cooking process in water can increase the loss up to 95 percent.

Crestpoint Management, LTD instrument announcement:
Short-Head Slit Knife, Disposable MSL25SH