Is Folic Acid and Folate the Same Thing?

Is Folic Acid and Folate the Same Thing?

Folate is natural vitamin. Folate present in a wide variety of green vegetables and fruits. It is the naturally-occurring form of vitamin B9. It is derived from the Latin word called “folium,” which means leaf. It is rich in dark green leafy vegetables among the natural nutritional sources of folate. It is a common B vitamers term under which a number of chemically related compounds with similar nutritional properties are placed for instance, folic acid and its congeners, including tetrahydrofolic acid (the activated form of the vitamin), methyltetrahydrofolate (the primary form found in the serum), methenyltetrahydrofolate, folinic acid, and folacin. Generally, natural folate loses its stability while cooking and the bioavailability of food folate is generally lower when compared to other derivatives. Folate bioavailability is defined as the proportion of an ingested amount of folate that is absorbed in the gut and that becomes available for metabolic processes.

Folic Acid – A Synthetic form

Folic acid is a synthetic form of vitamin B9, also known as pteroylmonoglutamicacid. When compared to folate, folic acid is more fully oxidized, stable and bioavailable. Hence it is used in supplements and added as fortified food to many products in the western countries. High intake of folic acid by women of childbearing age reduces the risk of neural tube defects in the infants of these women. As of 2007, fifty-two countries worldwide had national regulations mandating folic acid fortification of wheat flour. Folic acid is also found in supplements and multivitamins.

The majority of folic acid is converted to the active form of vitamins by an enzyme dihydrofolate reductase. However, the presence of detectable amounts of unmetabolized folic acid in the blood of individuals who have consumed supplements or fortified foods has attracted attention in recent years. These unmetabolized folic acid have been associated with several health problems. The proportion of women with detectable levels of unmetabolized folic acid increased from 65% to 100% after 12 weeks of supplementation.

High levels of unmetabolized folic acid have been associated with increased risk of colorectal adenomas and breast cancer. The unmetabolized folic acid in the blood can accelerate the growth of preneoplastic lesions. Large amounts of folic acid can correct the megaloblastic anemia, but not the neurological damage, that can result from vitamin B12 deficiency. Some experts have therefore been concerned that high folic acid intakes might “mask” vitamin B12 deficiency until its neurological consequences become irreversible. It is still unknown and controversial that the amount of folic acid supplementation that might cause harm.


Folate is a broad term for a group of water-soluble b-vitamins. It is naturally present in all green leafy vegetables and fruits which easily loses its stability while cooking whereas, folic acid is a synthetic form. It is available in fully oxidized state and most stable form of the vitamin, which is used in supplements and fortified foods. At present, there are increasing concerns that exposure to unmetabolized folic acid, which results from folic acid intakes that overwhelm the liver’s metabolic capacity, may be associated with adverse effects like malignancy.

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