Folic Acid: Thank You, Next!
You've probably heard of folate being a super hero of reproductive health. Folate metabolism affects ovarian function, implantation, embryogenesis and the entire process of pregnancy(1). And because of that most run-of-the-mill prenatal vitamins proudly include the synthetic form of folate in its ingredients: folic acid.
But did you know that 40% of the population has a genetic mutation that leaves them unable to fully process folic acid?(2) They are missing the enzymes that allow for the breakdown of folic acid and absorption of folate by the cells.
An external supply of synthetic folic acid, like that found in prenatal vitamins, taken by someone with the MTHFR gene variation, can therefore accumulate in the blood stream and become hazardous to fertility success. Folic acid build up can cause improper implantation and embryogenesis, and/or repeated early fetal loss and recurrent first trimester miscarriages.(2)
And guess what? Most women are not screened for the MTHFR mutation until way late in their infertility struggle. And so, you, the consumer, go along each morning and pop your prenatal vitamin, not knowing that folic acid may be hindering your fertility success.
So what to do about it?
Well, one, you can get tested. But tests are expensive and time consuming.
So, in the mean time, you can do what I suggest to all of my patients while they are TTC, kicks your folic acid filled prenatal to the curb and find one that uses L-methylfolate instead.
L-methylfolate is the bioavailable (absorbable) form of folate. It's less stable (aka has reduced shelf life) than folic acid -so it's not used by supplement companies looking to cut costs.
But for those brands willing to put in the money and research into their products, L-methylfolate allows all consumers, even those with the MTHFR genetic mutation, to bypasses the harsh task of folate break down and conduct simple absorption by the cells.
High quality brands that are already in the know about L-methyflolate include:
MamaBird (small company, family run)
So in the words of Arianna Grande say "Thank you, Next!" to folic acid and welcome L-methylfolate into your prenatal vitamin life.