Folic Acid and Folate – Important Differences

folic acid and folate

There is an important difference between folic acid and folate, but many people do not realize what it is, or how important it can be for their health. Even health practitioners, nutritionists, and even medical professionals can sometimes interchange or mix them up. Aren’t folic acid and folate the same nutrient? Well, almost, but there is an important difference between the two.

Folic acid and folate differences

Although folic acid and folate are basically the same nutrient, folic acid should not be taken by women who are beyond their childbearing years, and men should not take folic acid in high doses either since it may be harmful in great quantities for them.

So what is the main difference between folic acid and folate? Simple, folate is a natural nutrient found in greens and other vegetables, whereas folic acid is the synthetic form.

Folate is a general term and consists of B-vitamins that are water soluble (B9 in particular); however, folic acid is the synthetic oxidized compound found in food fortification and dietary supplements. Folate and folic acid are also different because folate is part of the different tetrahydrofolate (THF) derivatives in foods, which are in the small intestine mucosa.

Folic acid, the man-made synthetic variety, goes through reduction and methylation within the human liver, which if the enzyme dihydrofolate reductase is low in the liver while taking folic acid, it could result in a lot of unmetabolized folic acid within the circulatory system. Taking too much folic acid has also been associated with higher risk of cancer development, particularly colon cancer or prostate cancer.

Folic acid did not even exist until 1943, and was added to foods as a mandatory standard in food fortification since 1998 due to the fact that supplementing with folate and folic acid reduced neural tube defects (NTD) in newborn babies.

Folate can be gotten through folate-rich foods like oranges, greens (collar/mustar/turnip) and spinach, romaine lettuce, asparagus, broccoli, beets, cauliflower, lentils. and other foods naturally.


The author of this story is a freelance contributor to National Nutraceuticals’ online news portals, such as Amino Acid Information Center at and Vancouver Health News at  National Nutraceuticals, Inc. also owns and operates a third health news portal focusing on medicinal mushrooms at, plus our newest portal at

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