Folate (B9) is part of a healthy diet and is commonly found in green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, orange juice and some fruits. Folate (B9) is water-soluble, and the body requires it for cell growth and reproduction. It is essential for general health.
The body must digest and process folic acid, synthetic B9, before it can be used by the body. In fact, the body goes through several steps in order to “break down” the folic acid and get the full benefit. This is a complex process which is shown, step-by-step, in the chart below. As a result of these steps, the body makes a version of the folate called L-methylfolate.
The importance of L-methylfolate is that it, unlike folic acid, can cross the blood brain barrier. It has been shown that many people have a genetic error called the MTHFR polymorphism that limits their body’s ability to reduce folic acid into L-methylfolate.
Other risk factors including certain medications, diseases, lifestyle habits, and age may also increase an individual’s risk of having a less than optimal amount of this necessary chemical, L-methylfolate, in the brain.