Not all people metabolize the nutrient folic acid (a synthetic form of folate not found in nature) the same way. Folate is an essential nutrient for a healthy development and wellbeing. Fortunately a healthy diet includes plenty of folate for the average person. Folate is especially important for pregnant women in developing a new baby’s nervous system and brain. This is why many processed foods, like bread and cereals, are fortified with synthetic folic acid. The RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) of folic acid for pregnant women is 2000 mcg daily. Food sources of folate include whole grains and vegetables. Most women can utilize this form folate to prevent spina bifida and nervous system birth defects.
However, there is a significant per cent of the population that has genetic defects of folic acid metabolism. Genetic testing can clearly detect this defect. There are two genes tested in the 5MTHF Reductase (Folic Acid Metabolism) Genetic Test: C677T and A1298C. Both of these genes have two alleles, one allele comes from the mother and one allele comes from the father. Therefore there are 4 chances to have a significant genetic defect. Fortunately the majority of the population has normal folic acid metabolism. For the people born with genetic defects this can present some challenges.
Some symptoms of impaired folate metabolism are fatigue, depression, anxiety, infertility, miscarriages, headaches, migraines, muscles aches, poor memory, ADD/ADHD, autism, clotting disorders, and anemia. Depending on the severity of genetic defects these symptoms range from mild to severe. The folic acid metabolism genetic defects are also linked to significant cardiovascular disease and clotting disorders. This occurs because the folic acid is involved in cholesterol and homocysteine metabolism.
It is unfortunate that this condition is often misunderstood. People with genetic defects in folate metabolism are not helped supplementation of folic acid. Everyone can benefit from the folate and folinic acid found in dark leafy greens. However the quantity of folate found in leafy greens may not be enough for those with the methylation defects. People with the defects will likely show normal folic acid acid levels is the blood. This is because they are unable to utilize the traditional forms of folate and folic acid. Normally folate has a chemical reaction called methylation, which activates it in human cells. This methylation process happens inside the cells. Therefore testing the folic acid levels in the blood is not helpful.
If someone has a genetic defect they will require a significant amount of methylated folic acid. This comes in supplements of some prenatal vitamins, L-methylfolate, or 5MTHF. It also comes in a prescription form Deplin (brand name for L-methylfolate). The necessary dosage for each individual depends. People with a genetic defect typically require 3-15 mg each day (3000-15,000 mcg) each day. Many supplements include methylated folic acid in a low or insufficient dose. If methylated folic acid is not taken in a sufficient dose it can have a serious effect on the quality of life in each patient and their offspring.