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068: Does folic acid act differently in the body than natural folate?

Masterjohn Q&A Files Episode 68


Does folic acid act differently in the body than natural folate?

They don't really. Everything that is said bad about folic acid is sort of true to an extent but has been completely exaggerated in some circles. What happens is you have an enzyme called dihydrofolate reductase, or DHFR. Its purpose is not to metabolize synthetic folic acid obviously because that folic acid molecule doesn't exist in the food supply. Its normal purpose is that every time that you use folate to participate in processes outside of methylation, such as DNA synthesis, you wind up producing dihydrofolate as a byproduct. DHFR recycles that and turns it into tetrahydrofolate, or THF. Tetrahydrofolate is what has the methyl group added to make methylfolate.

The question is, does that synthetic folic acid, we call that unmetabolized folic acid, does that cause harm? There are scientific hypotheses that it might, and it might, but there's no conclusive evidence of that. That's one side of the argument against synthetic folic acid. The other side of the argument is now that you are giving the DHFR enzyme more work, that means that might be detracting from the work that it has in recycling dihydrofolate that came out of the DNA synthesis reactions to make tetrahydrofolate.

This Q&A can also be found as part of a much longer episode, here:

Harnessing the Power of Nutrients
Recording and Transcript of Ask Me Anything About Nutrition | March 4, 2019
Watch now (157 min) | On March 4, you joined me in a live Zoom meeting to ask me anything about nutrition, and here’s the full recording! We talk about things like: How much spinach, broccoli, and kale is too much? Can frozen vegetables be trusted for their folate? Do cooked legumes lose folate when frozen…
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The Masterjohn Q&A Files
We use Zoom, a video chatting software, in webinar mode. You can ask your question anonymously in text, but you can also ask it publicly, and you can even get "on stage" and share your mic, web cam, or screen with everyone.
Chris Masterjohn, PhD