During pregnancy it is important to make sure that you are getting the right nutrients for your baby’s growth. One of these nutrients is that of folic acid or folate. The folic acid versus folate debate is a critical issue for women wanting to become pregnant.
Both folate and folic acid are vitamin B9 derivatives. However, each possesses certain unique properties.
- Folate – This nutrient is a natural substance contained in numerous foods. Abundant quantities of folate are found in leafy green vegetables (like spinach, asparagus and Brussels sprouts), citrus fruits (such as oranges and lemons), other produce (strawberries, bananas and melons), eggs, legumes (such as beans and nuts) and meat products like liver.
- Folic Acid – Though considered by many to be the same as folate, folic acid possesses one rather distinct feature. This substance does not occur naturally but is synthetically produced. Additionally, folic acid is used as a healthy additive to many edible items including bread, cereals, pasta, rice and orange juice.
In addition to foods, folate and folic acid can be found in various single and multivitamin supplements readily available for purchase at most drug store chains.
Health Benefits of Vitamin B9
Both folate and folic acid contribute to several crucial bodily functions. Amongst the nutrient’s most critical role is cell division and production. In particular, vitamin B9 plays an integral part in the production of red and white blood cells. Additionally, this substance helps create genetic material known as DNA and RNA, which helps determine the physical and biological traits individuals will possess during their lifetime. Furthermore, the nutrient aids the body in converting other nutrients into the energy needed to perform at an optimal level.
Fertility Benefits for Men and Women
Aside from all the advantages of vitamin B9 listed above, the substance is also noted for its ability to provide several fertility benefits for both men and women.
In men, intake of foods containing folate and folic acid is said to increase sperm count and improve sperm strength and quality. For women, vitamin B9 is paramount to fetal development. Moreover, research has shown that adequate ingestion of the nutrient is necessary to prevent the development of various birth defects.
In fact, folate and folic acid intake are known for the increased inhibition of neural tube defects. These abnormalities impact the formation of a fetus’s brain and spine and could precipitate serious mobility, cognitive and mental functions of babies born with such ailments. Furthermore, sufficient intake of vitamin B9 might also decrease a newborn’s chances of developing other birth defects impacting regions such as the heart and blood vessels and defects induced by premature birth and low birth weight.
Folic Acid versus Folate
Many women wonder if consuming foods or ingesting supplements containing one over the other would be more beneficial to their health and fertility. In fact, the answer seems to be yes. Researchers and healthcare professionals believe that the intake of folate might prove more critical to women of child-bearing age and those already expecting.
Scientists have discovered that many women, perhaps up to 60%, possess a genetic defect that inhibits their ability to properly metabolize folic acid. Therefore, impacted women might believe they are consuming the right foods but actually are not. In some instances, failure to consume a sufficient amount of folate might precipitate nutritional deficiencies that might threaten their fertility levels or leave their unborn children significantly more vulnerable to developing birth defects. Therefore, child-bearing-aged women and those expecting are strongly advised to eat foods rich with folate or ingest supplements with elevated folate contents.