Folic acid is involved in neurotransmitter synthesis and critical enzymatic reactions throughout the body in addition to:
1) Formation of purines and pyrimidines, which in turn are needed for synthesis of the nucleic acids DNA and RNA. This process allows cell replication to occur and is thus essential. This is especially important during fetal development in the first trimester in preventing birth defects, such as neural tube defects,
2) Formation of heme, the iron-containing protein in hemoglobin. This enables oxygen transport throughout the bodyand thus energy production.
3) Interconversion of the 3-carbon amino acid serine from the 2-carbon amino acid glycine.
4) Formation of the amino acids tyrosine from phenylalanine and glutamic acid from histidine.
5) Methylation of homocysteine into the amino acid methionine. Elevated levels of homocysteine have been implicated in a wide range of health disorders including atherosclerosis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression. In the reconversion of homocysteine to methionine the body uses the methionine to make the important amino acid s-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) which is known to be helpful in cases of depression.
6) Synthesis of choline from ethanolamine,
7) Formation and maturation of red and white blood cells, and
8) Conversion of nicotinamide to N’-methylnicotinamide.
9) The production of certain neurotransmitters such as dopamine, adrenaline and noradrenaline rely on the methylation reaction which is dependant on THF.
10) Energy production also relies on the methylation reaction, and thus MTHF, and a slow rate of methylation has been linked to chronic fatigue.
Those who take ordinary folate supplements may not be experiencing its full spectrum of effects. This is because not everyone converts it into its biologically active form called 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (methylfolate or 5-MTHF). Research shows that in a large proportion of the population, genetic enzyme deficiencies (MTHFR gene) prevent the conversion of folate into methylfolate leaving low blood folate levels.
A more useful approach is to take the bioactive folate methylfolate directly, which has been declassified as a drug and is now available as a dietary supplement. Methyfolate has been shown to dramatically raise red blood cell folate concentration, an indicator of folate status compared with folic acid supplementation. This bioactive folate is up to seven times more bioavailable than folic acid. This greater bioavailability is especially important in people who have a genetic enzyme deficiency since it requires no conversion to become metabolically active.
Unlike folic acid, methylfolate is able to cross the blood-brain barrier, which is especially important for people with cognitive difficulties to enhance the synthesis of acetylcholine in the brain — the neurotransmitter associated with memory.
The genetic defect mentioned earlier called MTHFR gene polymorphism is responsible for dihydrofolate reductase malfunction which prevents the activation of folic acid. A simple blood test (called a MTHFR Gene Test) can determine if you carry this faulty gene and thus are unable to convert folic acid into its active MTHF form. Symptoms of this can include weight gain, fatigue and depression. If found to be present it can easily be treated by using methylfolate.
Other conditions possibly benefiting from methyfolate or folinic acid supplementation include: AIDS/HIV, celiac disease, cervical displasia, cleft palate, colon cancer, Crohn’s disease, diarrhea, gout, high cholesterol, increased fracture of chromosomes, malabsorption and gastrointestinal inflammation, megaloblastic anemia, restless leg syndrome, postpartum depression, fatigue, weight loss, sprue, ulcerative colitis, and vitiligo.
Numerous drugs are also known to inhibit the body’s ability to utilize folate, including: 1) aspirin, 2) cholesterol lowering drugs, 3) oral birth control pills, 4) antacids, and 5) methotrexate when used for rheumatoid arthritis. When taking these drugs or suffering from the conditions mentioned above it is recommended that you take 800 mcg daily of folinic acid or 1mg of MTHF.
The following are possible side effects of methylfolate and folinic acid:
* Allergic reactions: rash, itching, facial flushing. Rarely severe.
* Nausea and vomiting (rare)
Patients with epilepsy should avoid high doses of methylfolate and folinic acid as it may increase the incidence of seizures. If you have a known allergy to folic acid then folinic acid and MTHF should also be avoided.
Both Folinic acid and Methylfolate are available online through the members section of this website.