You’ve probably heard of folic acid, and how it’s important for preventing certain birth defects. But did you know that this vitamin (actually all vitamins) exist in a variety of different forms; some of which are more metabolically active in the body than others?
When a woman is deficient in folic acid during pregnancy it can lead to neural tube (the beginnings of the nervous system) defects as well as low birth-weight infants. This is why all women of child-bearing age should supplement with some form of folic acid, to prevent these issues if and when they should become pregnant.
But is folic acid good enough? There's a lot of emerging science that says this synthetic vitamin (that's right, folic acid is a synthetic version of the vitamin folate!) isn't well metabolized in many people due to varying genetics.
This is where the methylated version of folate (known as 5-methyl-tetrahydrofolate, 5-MTHF) comes in.
So, What Does 5-MTHF Do?
5-MTHF is the most important active form of folate. Many people aren’t able to produce this form of folic acid, due to liver dysfunction or intestinal issues.
Another major reason is that the majority of Americans (3 out of 5) who have genetic variations in the enzyme known as 5-MTHF-reductase cannot fully convert folic acid into the more useful 5-Methyltetrahydrofolate.
But it’s not all about preventing pregnancy-related issues either. 5-MTHF is also a key player in the production of many of our neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, melatonin, epinephrine and norepinephrine. When neurotransmitter levels are supported, this helps to ensure a healthy overall mood. If a person is a poor converter of folic acid into 5-MTHF, this can lead to mood issues and a variety of other health issues.
Another area of importance for 5-MTHF is how it works synergistically with vitamin B12 (or methylcobalamin, the active form) to help convert dangerous metabolic byproducts like homocysteine into methionine. Elevated levels of homocysteine are associated with heart disease and can be a sign of deficiencies of vitamins B6, B12 and folate. Continue reading to learn about the benefits of 5-MTHF.
Best Uses for 5-MTHF:
- Ensure your body’s supply of an active form of folic acid
- Support mood and overall mental wellness
- Reduce homocysteine levels and lower risk for heart disease
- Prevent neural tube defects in pregnancy
5-MTHF is important in any instance where folic acid (folate) is needed. Women should ensure they receive enough folate in their diets and supplement if they’re unsure.
Exploring issues of methylation - whether a person is missing certain genes for the enzyme 5-methyltetrahydrofolate reductase (5-MTHFR) may provide important clues for certain health conditions that can be easily remedied by using 5-MTHF instead of the inactive folic acid.