Folate – The Dangers & Differences

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Undoubtedly, if you have MTHFR (or even if you don’t) you’ve heard the words folate, folic acid, folinic acid, methylfolate thrown around like a tossed salad…

Speaking of tossed salad, folate is found predominately in uncooked leafy greens – emphasis on ‘uncooked’!

Folic acid on the other hand is mainly found in processed and fortified foods – foods you should be avoiding or at least reducing!

Why is folate so important?

  • Synthesis of nucleic acids (for DNA production and repair and tRNA)
  • Single carbon metabolism (methylation)
  • Interconversion of amino acids (for neurotransmitter production and detoxification)
  • Formation & maturation of RBC, WBC and platelet production

Do you have MTHFR?

If you have a genetic defect with your MTHFR gene then the MTHFR (Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase) enzyme isn’t going to be able to properly metabolize folate leading to a potential host of problems.

As previously mentioned, folate plays a pivotal role in DNA production and repair, methylation, neurotransmitter production, and red and white blood cell production.  

A genetic polymorphism of C677T can cause the most dysfunction of the MTHFR enzyme with A1298 having a lesser impact on function.

The effects of a MTHFR defect:

  • C677T – homozygous – 70% loss of function
  • C677T – heterozygous – 40% loss of function
  • C677T & A1298C – compound heterozygous – 50% loss of function

For more information on MTHFR, please visit MTHFR.net.

What’s the difference in folates?

Methylfolate is the most active form of folate produced by the MTHFR enzyme and made in the cytoplasm of ALL cells. Natural forms of methylfolate have an L or 6S in front of the name, if not, they could be a racemic mixture.

What happens if you have too much methylfolate? Methyl trapping!

More is not always better and having too much methylfolate without adequate B12 will block the methionine  cycle. This can set off a cascade of problems including increased homocysteine levels and inhibition of methylation. It also has the potential to increase strand breaks in DNA due to an increase in uracil and decrease in thymidine.

Folinic Acid or 5-formyl tetrahydrofolate is another active form of folate, also known as calcium or sodium folinate. Folinic acid is produced by the SHMT enzyme and must be converted by the MTHFR enzyme into methylfolate.

If your MTHFR enzyme isn’t working then the conversion process to methylfolate may be halted.

Folic Acid – It’s synthetic! It’s possible that your body could process folic acid with a positive outcome but not likely, and certainly not a source to be relied upon.

You would need the MTHFR enzyme & MTHFD1 enzyme to be functioning in order to convert folic acid to 5-methyltetrahydrofolate not to mention nutrients such as B2, B3, B6, B12, Vitamin C, Zinc and normal levels of stomach acid. Most people even if they successfully convert folic acid to the active methylfolate, do not have enough acidity in their gut to properly absorb it.

The dark side of folic acid

Since 1998 the U.S. FDA has required food manufacturers to fortify flour and cereal with folic acid. Not so surprisingly, MTHFR along with autism has been on the rise since foods began being fortified with folic acid.

With today’s modern diets, high intakes of folic acid are common and with only a small percentage making it all the way to the MTHFR enzyme, what happens to the rest?

It becomes unmetabolized folic acid and can decrease natural killer cell activity, mask a B12 deficiency as well as inhibit the MTHFR enzyme. Not exactly something you want to have floating around in your body!

Testing

If you are a doctor you need to be specific with your labs and ask “What do you mean when you say ‘folate’ on this lab? Is this folic acid, folinic acid, methylfolate or is it all three?”

It is also worth noting that patients can have adequate serum folate levels but an inability to transport folate into their cells, which is why it is important to test the intracellular folate levels.

How’s your folate status?

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Comments 16

  1. If you have 2 copies of c677T,2 copiesCOMT and 2 copies MTRR and are supplementing with B12 methylcobalamin,SAME,400mg,GABA 200mg,Magnesium aspartate 400mg,L5MTHF,buffered C,Omega 3,D3,NAC,Enlyte,Cytomel,Synthroid Is it necessary to avoid hidden folic acid because you are increasing folate every 4 days with injections 10mg?

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  2. Im a patient trying to find a doc who understands this stuff so for now I’ve done your modules myself I’m still confused I have mthfr comt cbs and problems with glutithione transferese my amonia level is 341 I have high flouride on my mitochondria based on acumen testing among other things –hashimoto’s ebv lyme hormone disfunction fibromyalgia
    — my doc has me on iv 2x a week
    Folinic acid vit c glutathione magnesium zinc phosphilidal choline phenyburate I also supplement with
    hydroxyocobalamin and adenysol phenylbutyrate phosphidal choline creatine l ortho nate Larginine been doing this since January and still so bad any advise? There are no docs in my area familiar with your research and my doc is asking me for advise. …..

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      Hi Denise –

      I recommend that your doctor take the courses personally.

      The courses are informative for patients as it allows them to be on the same page and understand the recommendations made by the doctor.
      This is very important.

      What is also very important is that your doctor understand what it means to have certain genetic polymorphisms and how they may affect the patient – and then what to do about it.

      I do recommend that you suggest the Part 1 and Part 2 course to your physician.

      If they don’t have the time, then consider the Methylation Summit 2014 as that is more of an initial summary and starting point.

  3. Dr lynch, my 7 yr old is compound heterozygous. Is it as simple as just giving her 1- 5-mthf pills? Will that help her? Thank u!

  4. Can anyone tell me where the claim that 98% of children with ASD are compound heterozygous comes from? People keep quoting this, but I can’t find a source.

  5. I heard methylfolate can turn on/off genes and for this reason, it can cause cancer. Does this mean its better to leave the genes turned off? I’m so confused. I am taking 2 mcg every other day. I am homozygous C677t. I am seeing an integrated medicine doctor but I read online so many conflicting reports. I don’t want to do harm to my body.

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      It depends on the gene. Most of our genes are methylated and turned off. Genes that are turned on and continously producing enzymes can lead to cancer. Those low in methylation are typically prone to cancer.

      Cancer has many causes – but if one has low methylation, then that increases cancer risk. It is best to support methylation to decrease cancer risk.

      If one already has cancer, then methylation could increase cancer risk – especially folates.

      Post cancer treatment, one needs to support methylation again.

      It’s a balancing act.

  6. My daughter is pregnant and she has the A1298c gene…she has a son that is diagnosed autistic. …she is unable to keep anything down

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  7. I am concerned for my daughter. She is 3 years old and homozygous c677t. This must be related to her many other issues. (Frontal lobe epilepsy, speech delay, low carnitine, unexplained high levels of arsenic) Which is best, a transdermal cream “neuro immune stabilizer” recommended by pediatrician, or folinic acid, recommended by neuro? Is the delivery method the only thing different? How is L-methylfolate different?

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      Hi Belle –

      I would consider using the Optimal Prenatal Protein Powder – and mixing a full serving – adding 2 cups of organic almond milk, frozen raspberries and frozen blueberries and then giving her 6 ounces or so of it. https://www.seekinghealth.com/optimal-prenatal-protein-powder

      This way she is getting some great nutrients and in a low amount.

      This is what I gave my boys for breakfast most mornings for years – just a bit from my smoothie – until they were old enough to get vitamins themselves.

      I also highly recommend you consider Optimal Creatine – and using a scoop of it in some water or her smoothie. It has helped a few that I know personally improve their child’s speech. https://www.seekinghealth.com/optimal-creatine-225-servings

      Please work with a health professional from the Directory as well.

  8. Dr.lynch,
    I have high iron, low ferratin, high folate, high b12.
    I am homozygous c77, heterozygous a198, and heterozygous comt. I am seeing a hemotologist but receiving very little help despite these baffling results. I stopped supplementing hydroxycobalamin months ago because my levels were so high (1500) and my doctor suggested I stop supplementing it. However, 6 months later my b12 levels are still high. I have been supplementing methylfolate from your supplement company, however I was puzzled by my levels being high(76). I was taking 3000mg per day. My only thought was that this must be too high? But I was not having any negative side effects from the methylfolate amount I was taking, that amount seemed to be helping my motility issues a long with the phospholityl choline (liposomal vitamin C). What are your thoughts on this?

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      I believe that levels of B12 and folate (and some other markers) should not base dosage recommendations. It’s better to determine how one feels vs what the lab report shows. Many labs do not show what we need to know for folate and B12 anyhow. I believe that you should work with your doctor and take the amounts of B12 and folate which make you feel better.

  9. Dear Dr Lynch, I have MTHFR A1298C- Heterozygous. Do I need to only take Folate instead of Folic acid? I am trying to get pregnant at the moment. Please advise on this and should I continue on it if so after birth etc for everyday health? I can only find info about this if you have C677T or both C677T AND A1298C. Please also tell me the dosage.
    Many thanks.

    1. Hi Sonya –

      I’m pleased to hear you are working on optimizing your pregnancy.

      Please read this article on MTHFR and pregnancy to dive deeper.

      I most recommend the Optimal Prenatal Protein Powder all throughout your pregnancy and breastfeeding.

      The starting dose recommendation of folate for pregnancy is 800 mcg – mixed with folinic acid and MTHF.

      Pregnancy support requires much more than just folate – but that’s all the news and media talk about. They are wrong.

      It also requires all the nutrients as found in Optimal Prenatal Protein Powder. This prenatal won the Women’s Choice Award for Best Prenatal as well.

      I take this most mornings for breakfast – about 4 days a week – even though I’m not trying to conceive. I feel the best when I use this over other multivitamins.

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