Folic Acid Benefits for the Body - Cooper Complete
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How Folic Acid Benefits the Body – Everything You Need to Know

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Did you know that the US Government believes folic acid benefits are so important that starting in 1998, it required folic acid fortification of ALL cold cereals and baking flour (including bread, pasta, and crackers)?

So what are the folic acid benefits that make it such an important nutrient?

Folic Acid vs. Folate

Both folic acid and folate are vitamin B9, so what’s the difference between the two?  Folic acid is the synthetic or man-made form of this vitamin, while folate is the naturally occurring form of vitamin B9. All Cooper Complete vitamins contain Metafolin®, folate in the natural form of (6S) 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF). The active form of vitamin B9 is folate, known as 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF).


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Estimates suggest as many as 60 percent of us don’t convert folic acid into the active form of folate the body uses – 5-methyltetrahydrofolate or 5-MTHF for short, due to a mutation in one of the enzymes involved in the metabolism of folic acid. Unlike synthetic folic acid, 5-MTHF can be immediately used by the body without the need for an additional conversion via the enzyme 5, 10-methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR). Metafolin® also does not appear to mask the anemia associated with vitamin B12 deficiency and presents no risk of an accumulation of unmetabolized folic acid.

Folic Acid Benefits and Pregnancy Health

Folic acid plays a vital role for women in preventing certain birth defects developed during pregnancy.  Studies have shown that women should begin folic acid supplementation before conception to improve folic acid benefits and potentially reduce infertility issues.  Increasing levels of folic acid before conception reduces the incidence of neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly.

The CDC notes that the biggest need for folic acid during pregnancy is the first trimester.  Specifically, they mention, “Birth defects of the brain and spine (anencephaly and spina bifida) happen in the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman finds out she’s pregnant.” Low folate levels may also contribute to low birth-weight babies and attention deficit disorder (ADD).

To address this issue, the CDC advises women to “take a daily multivitamin with folic acid in it” to “get 400 mcg of folic acid every day, even if they aren’t planning a pregnancy any time soon.”

As a member of the b vitamin family, Folic acid and folate are water-soluble, which means your body cannot store them for more than a day.

Food Sources of Folate

Folate (vitamin B9) is naturally present in vegetables (especially dark leafy greens), fruits, nuts, beans, and legumes. Folate is represented as micrograms (mcg) of dietary folate equivalents (DFEs). Here is the amount of folate in common foods:

  • 1/2 cup cooked spinach: 131 mcg DFE
  • 1/2 cooked medium-grain white rice: 90 mcg DFE
  • 1 cup shredded romaine lettuce: 64 mcg DFE
  • 1 slice fortified white bread: 50 mcg DFE
  • 1/2 cup cooked turnip greens: 32 mcg DFE
  • 3 ounces cooked halibut: 12 mcg DFE

Folic Acid Benefits and Heart Health: Homocysteine

Folic acid benefits the body in how it helps the conversion of homocysteine through the body’s metabolism. Homocysteine is an amino acid in the blood, and like cholesterol, high levels are directly associated with cardiovascular disease.

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Elevated homocysteine levels are also associated with higher risks of atherosclerosis, stroke, colon cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. Folic acid benefits the body by detoxifying homocysteine to reduce its levels in the blood.

Researchers at The Cooper Institute studied the effect of a multivitamin on homocysteine and found that a multivitamin that includes folic acid and vitamin B12 favorably influences homocysteine levels in the blood.

Folic Acid: Different Forms and Their Absorption

The body absorbs folate naturally from many types of food.  Unfortunately, research from the Pauling Institute has found that this absorption is “inherently limited and variable.”

Surprisingly, folate in food is 20-50 percent less bioavailable when compared to synthetic folic acid.

In contrast, folic acid does not have this variability. Folic acid absorbs in the body at a rate of 100% in supplement form.  However, the same folic acid used in fortified foods provides around 85% absorption.

The body absorbs folic acid best in supplement form due to a few factors. Mainly, the body must digest and convert folic acid from food into the 5-MTHF form the body can use. However, this process can be inefficient for many individuals.  According to nutritionist Dr. Joseph Bebe, “roughly one in two Americans have genetically inefficient enzymes that help create 5-MTHF.”

Supplements, including Cooper Complete multivitamins, bypass this inefficiency by including folic acid already in the most efficient (5-MTHF) form.  This ensures you receive the most potent form of folic acid for the best absorption by the body.

The formulations of all Cooper Complete nutritional supplements are overseen by a team of researchers and physicians, and all of our products are reviewed and adjusted to ensure that the formulations contain levels of ingredients scientifically proven to be beneficial for optimal health.

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