Folate vs. Folic Acid: Which Is Better?
Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
A simple trip down the supplement aisle can cause your head to spin. So many supplements, so little information. Aren’t some of these… the same?
Deciding which supplements to take is tricky, and the more information you have, the easier it will be to make a decision. One vitamin that seems to cause a lot of confusion is B9.
B9 is an essential vitamin. When a vitamin is essential, it means your body needs it but can’t make it on its own. The only way for your body to get B9 is by consuming foods that contain it, or by taking it in supplement form.
Because there are different names for B9, including folate and folic acid, it can be difficult to determine which you need.
Let’s go over the benefits of B9, the differences between folate and folic acid, and how a simple fatty acid may help give your body additional benefits to keep it youthful and strong.
Before we delve into the differences between folate and folic acid, it will be useful to understand a little about red blood cell health. Here’s what you need to know about how the health of your red blood cells affects the rest of your body.
What Are Red Blood Cells?
Red blood cells are round cells with flattened centers. These cells carry oxygen to every organ and system in your body. They also remove carbon dioxide from your body so that it can be exhaled from the lungs.
Red blood cells are made in the marrow of your bones. Each one lives about four months before it dies. As such, red blood cells are continually being produced.
Why Red Blood Cell Health Is Important
Numerous negative health issues are possible when your red blood cells are unhealthy. Unfortunately, most of us don’t think about our red blood cells unless we have an illness that affects them.
The most common illness associated with poor red blood cell health is anemia. Anemia happens when a person doesn’t have enough red blood cells in their body. This can happen because the person is deficient in vitamins and minerals, or because they have an underlying health issue.
When your red blood cells are unhealthy, you can experience symptoms like:
- Elevated heart rate
- Pale skin
- Feeling sick
- Always being cold
A simple blood test from your doctor can help you determine if your red blood cells are healthy or not. If not, your doctor may recommend you take supplements to support red blood cell health. One such supplement is B9, which is available as folate or folic acid.
What Is Folate?
Folate is a version of vitamin B9. The family of B vitamins all help your body effectively convert carbohydrates to glucose. B vitamins are essential for our bodies use of fats and protein, helping the body convert them to usable energy.
Folate is also important for red blood cell health, because it supports red blood cell formation and function. In people who are anemic, red blood cells may form incorrectly and even be visibly misshapen under a microscope.
Folate is especially important during pregnancy. During the earliest stages of development, folate is crucial for avoiding birth defects in the brain and spine.
It’s essential for adults to get enough folate in their diets to ensure proper protein metabolism. Homocysteine, an amino acid found in meat, is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Folate helps break down and process homocysteine, making it a vital nutrient for supporting heart health.
Where Do We Get Folate?
When we eat food that contains folate, the body converts it into an active form of vitamin B9 in the digestive system. Folate is naturally occurring in the foods we eat.
Sources of food that are high in folate include:
- Dark, leafy green vegetables like spinach, turnips, and broccoli
- Animal livers
- Some fish
- Whole grains
Most of the time, you’ll get plenty of folate in your diet if you are eating a variety of foods and enough of them. If you’re deficient, you can take a synthetic folate supplement. That supplement is folic acid.
What Is Folic Acid?
Folic acid isn’t just a folate supplement, it’s also used as an ingredient to enrich certain foods. Because folate is so critical to our overall health, the U.S. began a public health intervention in 1998, requiring certain foods to be fortified with folic acid.
How Does Folic Acid Work?
Just like other supplements, not all the folic acid you take is absorbed properly. All folic acid you consume in supplement form, or in enriched foods, is not actively converted into the usable form of vitamin B9 your body needs. Folic acid is converted to B9 in the liver, and it takes longer for this process to happen than it does for folate to convert to B9.
Because the conversion to B9 from folic acid is sluggish, folic acid may build up in your body and become detectable in your blood. A higher circulating level of folic acid is associated with negative health markers.
If your body doesn’t metabolize folic acid efficiently, you could be placing your health at risk by taking a folic acid supplement.
Is It Safe To Take Folic Acid?
You don’t need to take folic acid unless you are specifically deficient in vitamin B9. If you are, your doctor may suggest you try to increase your B9 by eating foods rich in folate. Getting B9 from folate-rich foods is the best way for your body to get this important vitamin.
Because taking folic acid carries the risk of negative health impacts, you should discuss all your options with your doctor.
What About Red Blood Cell Health?
Folic acid isn’t the only supplement that can support your red blood cell health. Because it carries a risk if you don’t necessarily need it, you can opt for a safer, more beneficial way to care for your cells and your entire body.
Best Supplements for Red Blood Cell Health
If keeping your red blood cells healthy is a priority for you (and it should be) you aren’t limited to folate and folic acid supplements.
A newly discovered, odd-chain saturated fatty acid is a more viable alternative.† In fact, this fatty acid is so important for our overall health, a growing body of research supports it is the first essential fatty acid to have been discovered in over 90 years.
Pentadecanoic Acid and Your Health
For decades we’ve been told that all fat is bad, but it turns out, not all fat is bad. In fact, some fats are essential for our bodies to operate and function properly. Pentadecanoic acid, or C15:0, is an odd-chain, saturated fatty acid that dives deep into your cells to strengthen them and encourage healthy function.†*
The foundation of our health begins with our cells. Our cells make up organs, which make up systems that keep our bodies healthy. When our cells are healthy, we are healthy.
As we age, our cells become fragile and weak. The mitochondria that power them slow down, and they begin to operate abnormally. This leads to negative health impacts and an increased risk of age-related disease.
C15:0 helps support your health and protect your cells by supporting five major sources of age-related health decline:†*
- Immunity. As we get older, our immunity becomes unbalanced, leaving us feeling sicker and more vulnerable. C15:0 helps support your immunity by improving your cellular function and bringing your immunity back into balance.
- Heart health. Improper diet, lack of exercise and high cholesterol levels can leave us unhealthy and struggling to lose weight. It can also place us at greater risk of experiencing heart disease. Along with a balanced diet and exercise routine, C15:0 can support your cholesterol and heart health.
- Metabolism. Speaking of losing weight, you’ve probably blamed your metabolism a few times if you find it hard to shed those pounds. C15:0 helps make sure your metabolism is fully charged by supporting the mitochondrial health of your cells and naturally activating receptors, called PPARs (pronounced pee-pars), that regulate your metabolism.
- Red blood cell health. C15:0 helps support your red blood cells by strengthening your cell membranes, ensuring that your cells are protected from external stressors. C15:0 fortifies cells so they become more resilient.
- Liver health. C15:0 helps support healthy liver function which can also support healthy blood sugar levels.
One little fatty acid with so many benefits, but how do you get C15:0 in your diet? This fatty acid is only found in small amounts in whole-fat dairy products and some fish and plants, which means you probably don’t have enough of it in your diet.
The solution is fatty15. This once-a-day supplement contains the vegan-friendly and pure powder form of C15:0, FA15™. Taking fatty15 just once a day can help support a healthier body and increase your red blood cell health.*
The Bottom Line
Your body needs B9, and you can get plenty of B9 from eating foods rich in folate. If you are deficient, taking a folic acid supplement can be a great solution. However, too much circulating folic acid can have negative health impacts.
If you would like to increase your overall health and support your red blood cells, fatty15 is a solution that offers benefits for your red blood cells and your entire body.†*
Get your trial kit of fatty15 here and give your cells the support they deserve.
Sources:Cancer Incidence and Mortality After Treatment With Folic Acid and Vitamin B12|PubMed
Eric Venn-Watson M.D.
Senior Scientist, Co-Founder
Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.