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Folate, also called vitamin B9, is one of the several essential B vitamins the body requires for optimum function. Vitamin B9 is water soluble and present in many foods. Common folate sources include chickpeas, lentils, eggs, sunflower seeds, peanuts, beans such as kidney beans and edamame beans, and dark-green leafy vegetables.

Why is folate essential?

Folate has several important functions in the body, such as:

What is folic acid?

Folic acid is the synthesised equivalent of folate made in labs. It is available in fortified foods such as cereals, milk, and supplements. This makes folic acid the supplemental form of folate, but folate from foods and the synthesised variant have a key difference.

What is the difference between folic acid and folate?

Folate is a naturally occurring vitamin in foods, while folic acid is the synthesised variant of folate found in supplements and fortified foods.

Unlike folate, your digestive system will not convert most of the folic acid in your body to the active form (folate or vitamin B9), the form of folate used for cell growth and red blood cell formation.

Although folic acid doesn’t get converted in the digestive system, it is converted in the liver and other tissues, but this process is slow and inefficient.

Taking folic acid supplements is the best way for some people to get enough folate for body function, especially during pregnancy or in people with malabsorption.

Can I have folate deficiency?

Since folate is present in many foods, most people do not develop folate deficiency if the diet is varied and nutritious. However, some conditions can increase your risk of folate deficiency.

These conditions include:

The risk of folate deficiency increases as you grow older, and this condition is more common in people over 65 years.

Do I need a folic acid supplement?

Most people do not need folic acid supplements, especially if their diet is healthy and balanced. However, if you are trying to have a baby, are pregnant or could get pregnant, healthcare professionals recommend taking 400mc supplements until 12 weeks of the pregnancy. People with a high risk of neural tube defect need a higher dose of folic acid.

If you take supplements, try not to take too much of them to prevent adverse effects. Folic acid doses up to 1mg are less likely to be harmful, but higher doses can prevent the symptoms of vitamin B12, which may result in long-term nerve problems.

A folate blood test is necessary to check your current folate levels and monitor your folate levels if you take supplements. You can visit Private Blood Tests London for a folate blood test or call us on 02071830244 to schedule an appointment for your test.