Folinic Acid, Folic Acid, and Folate- What’s the Difference and Why Does it Matter?

For years we have heard about the importance of folic acid. Women in their childbearing years have been encouraging to consume enough folic acid to protect their unborn children. However, what’s the folinic acid, and folate acid? How are they connected and how are they different?

Well- let’s go over all of that so you’ll wonder no more.

What is Folate?

Folate is a naturally occurring vitamin B9 found in liver and green leafy vegetables. The small intestine metabolizes folate, making it readily available for the body to use. Although it is possible to consume enough folate in a healthy diet, folate deficiency is the most common vitamin deficiency in developed nations around the world.

In addition to keeping healthy red blood cells, folate is critical to the creation of DNA. It is needed for cell division and cell growth, making it vital to women who are planning to have children and women who are pregnant. A lack of folate can seriously get in the way of the growth and health of both the placenta and the fetus.

Folate deficiency also contributes to the development of neural tube congenital disabilities. Neural tube defects occur when the neural tube doesn’t close properly. This stage of development typically occurs around 28 days after conception, but if it doesn’t close properly, severe congenital disabilities and health issues can arise.

What is Folic Acid?

Folic acid is the synthetic version of folate. Because very few people get enough folate naturally through diet alone, folic acid is a supplement. It was discovered in 1941 by a scientist who used four tons of spinach in his research. This development reduced severe congenital disabilities such as spina bifida.

In 1996 the United States Food and Drug Administration started the requirement if fortification in all enriched grain products. This mandate has been in full force as of 1998. Since the introduction of folic acid as a supplement, severe neural tube defects have declined by about 70% in the United States.

Unlike folate, folic acid metabolizes in the liver rather than in the small intestine. This metabolizing results in the form of the enzyme that cannot be used fully by the body, often resulting in excess of folic acid in many adults.

Too much folic acid can lead to digestive problems such as nausea, gas, loss of appetite, as well as restless sleep and irritability. Also, high levels of folic acid can mask a vitamin B12 deficiency in patients, leading to further symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, and confusion.

Due to recent research on the problems associated with too much folic acid, some scientists are questioning the wisdom of fortifying everyone’s food with folic acid. Research and anecdotal evidence is leading to pushing back against the mandated fortification.

What is Folinic Acid?

Folinic acid is an active form of folate that occurs naturally in food. Because it is a form of folate, folinic acid is metabolized by the small intestine to be readily accessible, rather than by the liver.

Although folic acid, created in 1947, has been used as a supplement for decades, folinic acid is less well known. However, it is prescribed and used in many crucial situations. Patients undergoing chemotherapy are often given a form of folinic acid to help counteract the side effects of their chemo. Folinic acid is also part of a treatment plan for certain cancers such as colon cancer and is also used to treat anemia brought on by low levels of folate.

Folinic Acid as a Treatment for Anxiety and Depression

One of the most promising uses for folinic acid is starting to gain acceptance through anecdotal evidence. Many who live with severe, chronic depression and anxiety are finding relief through the use of folinic acid supplements.

The link between folinic acid and mood disorders appears to involve a variant of the MTHFR gene. Everyone has two MTHFR genes, one from each parent. People with one or more of these variations seem to be at higher risk for specific health problems. These health problems include:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Also, women with the MTHFR variation may be at higher risk of having children with neural tube disorders.
Mutations in the MTHFR gene impact the gene’s ability to make an enzyme the body needs for a process called methylation. Among other things, this process effects:

  • Eye health
  • Digestive health
  • Cardiovascular
  • Neurological health
  • Liver health

In short, it is critical to the entire body. When methylation experiences disruption due to an MTHFR variation, the whole body suffers.

More Research Coming

Although preliminary results are promising for those with chronic, significant anxiety and depression, clinical research is minimal at this point. As genetic testing continues for more patients to determine if MTHFR variations are present, more research will be forthcoming in this exciting area of treatment. In the meantime, proper dosages of folinic acid don’t appear to have any adverse effects, so patients should discuss this supplement with their doctors. It may prove to be just the help they need.

As always, contact us at Third River Health for your health needs.

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