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Folate vs Folic Acid – What’s the Difference.


Folate and folic acid are terms that are often used interchangeable when discussing water soluble vitamin B9 (folacin).

Folic acid is the synthetic form typically found is supplements, and enriched food products, it requires processing by the liver to transform it to activated form. This is not a concern in most of the population but  in some individuals with a lack of the enzymes to break down folic acid, the result is excess unmetabolized folic acid circulating around in the body. 

Folate (5-methyltetrahydrofolic acid) refers to the naturally occurring or activated form of folate.  This form can be found in foods such vegetables such as (uncooked) romaine lettuce, spinach, asparagus, turnip greens, mustard greens, parsley, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, and lentils.  Animal sources of folate are calf’s liver and chicken liver.

As a Naturopathic Doctor I always recommend supplements that are high quality and contain activated forms of vitamins.  

Who does this apply to – pregnant women, women planning to conceive, individuals with family history of cancer.

There have been several studies demonstrating an increased cancer risk in individuals taking folic acid, current research is continuing to explore this link, but until then food or activated folate supplements appear to be the best option.  

Talk to your health care provider today.


Xenobiotica. 2014 May;44(5):480-8. doi: 10.3109/00498254.2013.845705. Epub 2014 Feb 4.

Am J Clin Nutr August 2014vol. 100 no. 2 593-599

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