So I am sure that you have probably wondered with all the prenatal, natal and post-natal multivitamins on the market, which is the best one for me to take?
And I have to say that it is a very valid question. Not all pregnancy multivitamins are the same, with some being clearly more superior to others. The quality of the product and the form of vitamins and minerals used are two very important factors.
So what about the vitamin FOLIC ACID? Bear with me here as it can get a little complicated….So in the folate family there are three types: folic acid (B9), folinic acid (Calcium folinate or activated B9) and Methylfolate (5-Methyltetrahydrofolate). The common types that are found in pregnancy multivitamins are usually either: folic acid (which is a man-made version of folate) and folinic acid (Calcium folinate or 5-formyltetrahydrofolate) otherwise known as the activated form of folate or Activated B9.
The type of folate used in a multivitamin is crucial. Why is this so? Well it has been discovered in fairly recent research now that approximately 45% of the population have a genetic glitch known as an MTHFR (Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase) polymorphism. So what does this long rather complicated set of words mean?
It means that if you have this genetic glitch you are unable to convert the non-active form of folate (folic acid) into the active form of folate (Methylfolate or 5-methyltetrahydrofolate). The active form of folate is the one that your body absorbs and uses. So if you are taking a pregnancy multivitamin with folic acid in it and you have this MTHFR genetic mutation the folic acid is NOT being absorbed. It is virtually just floating around the bloodstream not serving any purpose and accumulating.
This is of great concern as folate is needed for prevention of neural tube defects (NTDs) in your baby such as Spina Bifida, it is required for the growth and development of the placenta and foetus, can protect against chromosomal issues for example Down syndrome and is required to make DNA. Sadly the majority of all the multivitamins available in retail environments such as chemists, health food stores and supermarkets contain FOLIC ACID which is the non-active form.
Even if you don’t have the MTHFR genetic glitch, the synthetic form of folate (folic acid) has to undergo several processes to convert to activated folate (Methylfolate) which is very slow and rather demanding on the body. Because it is a slow process a lot of the folic acid consumed builds up and overcrowds in the bloodstream. Some studies have suggested that this excess folic acid could increase the risk of cancer due to it decreasing natural killer cells that target pre-cancerous and cancerous cells.
So what do I do about it?
- Go to a Naturopath who can refer you for the MTHFR genetic polymorphism test which can identify whether you have the genetic glitch or not.
- There are some pregnancy multivitamins that contain the activated form of folate (Folinic acid or Calcium folinate) these are Practitioner Only multivitamins and are only available through a Naturopath.