Essential Ingredients

MTHF Folate vs. Folic Acid: Why MTHF Folate Wins

2 min read

Why is folate important?

Folate is an essential nutrient best known for supporting neural tube development during pregnancy. But for everyone else, folate is still a must-have. It’s involved in multiple life-sustaining processes, including DNA synthesis. Without enough of this nutrient, the neurotransmitters that regulate your mood get lazy. Not enough folate means not enough red blood cells, which may affect your energy levels.*

How should we get our folate?

The best dietary sources of natural folate include fresh fruits, leafy greens, yeast, and legumes, but these can easily be degraded during food prep and cooking; this means that those foods often become less effective sources of folate as soon as they’re manipulated, i.e. chopped or cooked. Taking that into account, supplementation is a great option to make sure you’re getting enough of this essential nutrient.*

Does the form matter?

Dietary folate forms are either natural or synthesized, but that's not the real problem — the chemical form of folate, folic acid, is the real potential troublemaker. Folic acid is the form used in many supplements because it’s highly stable and it’s better at entering your intestinal cells than natural folate, but this is where the folic acid upsides end.

Once folic acid enters a cell, it needs to be converted into 6S-5-Methyltetrahydrofolate (MTHF) by several key enzymes before your body can use it. Here’s the problem: not only is the first step of that enzyme transformation sluggish, but up to 40% of men and women carry gene variants that can hinder the last step of the conversion. This means that almost half of us may struggle to get the full benefits from folic acid; therefore, most common supplements that use it might not be as effective for you. It’s no surprise that having this gene variation comes with an increased risk for symptoms linked to low levels of folate.*

When we were making Essential for Women and Essential Prenatal, we decided to include the form of folate that’s the easiest for your body to use: MTHF. Unlike folic acid itself, it doesn’t need to go through enzyme conversion. Plus, it’s the form that works best for those of us with that common MTHFR gene variant.*