Researchers at the University of Milan make a case for supplementing with a new form of folic acid – 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF). Folate is critical for normal cell division. Low folate status is caused by poor dietary intake, poor absorption of folate, and/or alteration of folate metabolism as a result of genetic defects or drug interactions. Folate deficiency increases the risk for neural tube defects, cardiovascular disease, cancer and cognitive problems. There even is evidence that a folate deficiency contributes to mental illness, such as schizophrenia. Folate can be supplemented as folic acid, folinic acid, or 5-MTHF. The researchers argue that naturally occurring 5-MTHF has important advantages over synthetic folic acid, since it is well absorbed even when gastrointestinal pH is altered and its bioavailability is not affected by metabolic defects. Using 5-MTHF instead of folic acid reduces the potential for masking symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency, reduces interactions with drugs, and overcomes metabolic defects.
Scaglione F, Panzavolta G: Folate, folic acid and 5-methyltetrahydrofolate are not the same thing. Xenobiotica 2014;44:480-488.