Sunday, October 25, 2009

Folate supplements better than natural folates?

One of the fascinating things about folate is that it comes in many forms. Folic acid is the one produced by chemical factory's. Thus it is cheap and plentiful, thus you are likely to have heard of it. However in nature folic acid is bound to other chemicals in many different and unique ways. Folic acid bound to these other substances is called folate.

Typically leafy green vegetables are high in folate. However the different types of folate have differing levels of bio-availability. It is known that folates in food are not well absorbed and have poor bio-availability. Thus there is a possibility if we try to raise our folic acid levels by eating leafy green vegetables that the body will not receive the folic acid it needs.

A interesting study hints this might be the case. This study was looking at homocysteine levels in the blood. In simple terms homocysteine in blood is bad and increase folic acid causes a drop in homocysteine levels. So this study looked at increasing folate consumption by eating more leafy greens, taking a supplement from yeast and eating food with folic acid added to it (fortified). As you can see in the first graph below that all three groups had higher intake of folates compared to the control (placebo group). However what is fascinating is that only the fortified and supplement group had raised folic acid levels in their blood. Suggesting that the folate from leafy greens was not making it into the body. This is confirmed by the homocysteine levels shown on the second graph. Only the supplement and fortified group had statistically significant drop in homosyteine levels.

Thus folate in our green foods is not as good as chemical folic acid. This is very surprising, however the supplement was made from yeast, so eating yeast product would likely to provide high bio-availability folate. So home made bread (with yeast) and maybe even home brew?! as this uses yeast - although I don't know how much yeast is left in the final product. I also wonder about lactic acid bacteria as a source of folic acid. This is found in live yogurts and sauerkraut. So until this is figured out I would suggest you supplement with folic acid, or even better a yeast based suppliment. I would also reccomend eating more leafy green vege's even though they might not give you folate they are wonderful for a multitude of other reasons.

Lastly for transparency I am a Nutrilite distributor and this study was undertaken by Nutrilite and it was their yeast based suppliments which were used. 

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