You’ve seen the words repeated in articles and said multiple times in your OB or Midwife’s office – folic acid, folate, folic acid, folate. These words are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. So, what is the difference between the two and what’s the craziest hidden benefit of folate vs folic acid for mom and baby?
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What is folic acid and folate?
Folate and folic acid are names for vitamin B9, an essential vitamin our bodies need for healthy cell and DNA growth. When we consume vitamin B9, our bodies need to convert it into the active form of B9 called levomefolic acid as it enters our bloodstream. While both names refer to the same vitamin, there is a key difference.
Folate is a naturally occurring form of B9, while folic acid is a synthetic form.
So, which is better?
Because folate is natural, our bodies convert most of it into that active form in our bloodstream. We need to get the true benefit of the vitamin. However, the body cannot break down and convert most of the folic acid in the bloodstream. So, it stays there for longer until it can get processed in the liver. This results in a possible build up of folic acid in the body, which can cause health issues like increasing the risk of cancer.
I wonder why they even sell it, especially to pregnant women.
The benefit of folate far exceeds that of folic acid.
Why do I need folate during pregnancy?
Pregnant people need folate especially to prevent birth abnormalities like neural tube defects, which have been linked to low levels of vitamin B9.
You can get folate through a supplement and by eating dark, leafy greens like spinach and brussel sprouts.