Folic acid is one of the most talked about vitamins today, but there’s a growing amount of confusion surrounding this B-complex vitamin. People are constantly searching for answers, but sometimes can only find more confusion than clarity.
Hopefully, we can relieve you of some of that confusion and even provide a solution for some people who are worried about the levels of folic acid in their child(ren).
There are a large number of studies focused on folic acid -- in its many different forms -- and its effect on the body, one of which has found a possible link between the vitamin and appetite in children. This can be essential for the child’s growth and development, allowing them to maintain a proper diet throughout their young life.
In order to fully understand how this is possible, you’re going to need a little background on folic acid itself -- including what it is, how we get it, and ways our body might be working against the levels of folic acid in the body.
What Is Folic Acid?
Folic acid is generally used as an umbrella term, but there’s also a technical definition of folic acid that’s important to know. In fact, not knowing the real definition can be extremely misleading to anyone with low or high levels of folic acid in the body.
When used as an umbrella term, it refers to the b-complex vitamin B9. In reality, there are many different forms of Vitamin B9 -- with folic acid being just one of them. Folic acid is actually known as the synthetic form of Vitamin B9, the form that was made by man and used to fortify various foods we eat - it is also added to vitamin supplements.
We consume folic acid often in some foods, like rice, pasta, flour, breakfast cereals and bread. It is largely recommended that pregnant women consume folic acid -- due to its major role in the growth and development of children.
Folic acid has made it possible for many people to increase vitamin B9 intake without having to eat whole foods. It has also allowed us to consume it in larger doses, which is definitely needed in certain situations.
Folic Acid and Your Child’s Appetite
One of those situations where folic acid supplementation might be needed is if your child is experiencing a lack of appetite or isn’t eating as much as they should be. One study, in particular, studied the benefits of folic acid supplementation on children who have ADHD. It concluded that both insomnia and reduced appetite could be a cause for concern in children with low levels of folic acid.
In addition to that, folic acid plays a role in DNA synthesis -- an essential part of growth in children. Folic acid can greatly influence cell growth and the synthesis of DNA in the gastrointestinal tract -- which will improve a child’s appetite and help them eat more consistently.
Finally, the study revealed that the introduction of folic acid supplementation didn’t lead to a noticeable weight gain, despite it leading to an increased appetite. This can be extremely beneficial to those that need a healthy and natural solution to improve poor appetite.
What Are the Different Forms of Folic Acid?
Like we mentioned above, folic acid is just one of the various forms of vitamin B9 and they all have a different journey before being utilized by the body. You’ll often see vitamin B9 mentioned as either folic acid, folate, or methylfolate. Don’t worry; we’ll explain the difference.
Where folic acid is known as the synthetic form of vitamin B9 (explained above) - it must be converted 4 times before the body can utilize it’s most bioactive enzyme form at the cellular level. Folate is a more natural source of vitamin B9. It’s the form you’ll find in food sources and will be a much healthier source of vitamin B9 than folic acid. It’s often referred to as dihydrofolate or dietary folate.
Dihydrofolate is most commonly found in spinach, asparagus, black-eyed peas, dark green leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, eggs, and dairy products. It has an easier journey to being utilized by the body because folic acid needs to travel to the liver before starting the many conversion steps required to become an active, absorbable form.
On the other hand, dihydrofolate still needs to be converted 3 more times before it is able to be directly used by the body at the cellular level and for its many downstream health processes.
Finally, we have methylfolate -- known as the active form of vitamin B9. Your body won’t be able to make use of vitamin B9 unless it:
- either gets converted into methylfolate from dihydrofolate (but watch out for the fact that more than half of the world’s population has a mutation that can’t do this conversion very well) OR
- you can supplement the specific form L-5-Methylfolate directly via a dietary supplement (vitamin)
Since vitamin B9 is a water-soluble vitamin, leftover or unused amounts should just be excreted through urine and would not likely serve any purpose inside the body. However, it’s worth noting that if you ingest folic acid and you happen to be one of the folks who cannot convert folic acid into methylfolate very well, due to an MTHFR gene mutation, then you could be making a lot of excess UMFA (unmetabolized folic acid). Some have connected this UMFA to cancer in some studies. So it may not seem like the form of B9 you’re taking is that important, but in fact it could have huge impacts upon your health, both now and long term. If you are going to be supplementing, it’s highly recommended to go with the active form of folate, L-Methylfolate and not folic acid. Mainly due to two reasons:
- The inefficiency of folate conversion in the body from folic acid relies on at least 4 conversions from at least that many different genes (which may or may not be working properly for you)
- The fact that more than half the population is known to have at least one main blocker to the folic acid conversion process, an MTHFR gene mutation which prevents the final step in making the fully active and usable version of folate, L-5-Methylfolate.
What Else Is Vitamin B9 Responsible For?
Vitamin B9 plays a much larger role in your child’s health than simply improving appetite. It has been the center of a wide range of studies in children and pregnant women.
In regards to pregnancy, vitamin B9 is instrumental for the growth and development of the baby. There are growing concerns of birth defects (spina bifida) and even miscarriages when pregnant women don’t supplement properly before, during, and after pregnancy.
Even after the child is born, not getting enough vitamin B9 in one’s daily diet can lead to a wide range of health issues such as mood-related disorders, ADHD, depression, and autism. Low levels of methylfolate can also disrupt the methylation process in the body, as well as lead to high levels of homocysteine in the blood.
High homocysteine levels have contributed to a wide range of arterial damage including blood clotting in the blood vessels. This is especially true when vitamin B12 is also low, which is common for those suffering from low levels of vitamin B9.
How Can Your Child Increase Vitamin B9 Consumption?
There are multiple ways you can ensure that your child is getting enough vitamin B9 each and every day. The most ideal way to do this is by increasing the amount of folate in their diet -- the natural form of vitamin B9. However, even with a folate-rich diet, if your child is one of those who does not convert folate into methylfolate properly due to MTHFR, then this approach will not help much.
And of course, we understand there could be a variety of reasons why increased dietary folate might not be possible, whether due to preference or allergies. In this case, L-Methylfolate supplementation can help -- but be careful because,in fact, consuming too much folic acid can lead to excess UMFA levels. And on top of that, the levels of methylfolate will still be measuring low if the child’s body won’t be making the conversions as well.
In most cases, methylfolate is being consideredthe better route to take -- especially one with a healthy dose of active vitamin B12 since the two go hand in hand and work together along the methylation cycle to provide balance and health to so many downstream processes. Methylfolate is also really the only good option for any child suffering from a mutation to the MTHFR gene.
This mutation can cause a malformation of the MTHFR enzyme, which plays a large role in converting folate into methylfolate. Any damage to this enzyme could halt the production of methylfolate, which is what we DON’T want to see happen.
In this case, methylfolate will allow your child’s body to bypass the conversion process and provide your body the necessary form of vitamin B9 from the start.
Whether you have a gene mutation or just have difficulty adding folate to your daily diet, methylfolate is a much more effective source of vitamin B9 than folic acid.
Calling On Methyl-Life™
At Methyl-Life™, we are on the front lines of methylfolate and MTHFR awareness. We’ve been affected by the MTHFR mutation first-hand and have experienced the various effects it can have on the human body. For this reason, we’ve set out on a mission to help bring others the same relief we’ve been able to find for ourselves. And hopefully to bring enough awareness to prevent future generations from suffering some of the many ills we have due to this deficiency.
When you begin to supplement with L-Methylfolate, among other nutrients that are essential to the methylation process, you finally get to unlock your body’s true potential. You won’t feel sluggish anymore, will have more energy, more motivation, more clarity, and an overall positive outlook on your life.
Methyl-Life™ is home to a wide range of products designed to help anyone suffering from MTHFR -- including children and pregnant women. Our methylfolate-only supplements come in different dosage levels so you can monitor the intake amounts carefully and accurately. This is especially important for younger children.
Like we mentioned previously, vitamin B9 and vitamin B12 go hand-in-hand when talking about methylation or a lack of appetite. Increasing vitamin B12 in the body along with methylfolate can help improve this process in two ways at once -- which is why we also offer Hydroxocobalamin supplements (the active form of Vitamin B12).
Finally, we offer both methylated and non-methylated multivitamins to help you get a healthy dose of methylation-supporting vitamins and minerals in your daily diet. These vitamins and minerals are responsible for hundreds of functions in the body, so they shouldn’t be neglected either. Please note, our Methylated Multivitamin is a delicious chocolate raspberry flavor - approved and loved by our Founder’s own 9-year old daughter. And we’ve found that a yummy vitamin option makes daily compliance sooooo much easier.
If you’re looking for an effective bundle, we have a Beginner’s Bundle that provides you with L-Methylfolate, Hydroxocobalamin, liposomal Magnesium, and a non-methylated multivitamin. We also have a Pregnancy Bundle that contains Methylfolate, Hydroxocobalamin, and a methylated Multivitamin.
Of course, you can always contact us at any time if you have any questions or would like more information on any of our products!
Riahi, Forough, et al. “Effects of Folic Acid on Appetite in Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Treated with Methylphenidate: A Randomized Double-Blind Clinical Trial.” Iranian Journal of Medical Sciences, Iranian Journal of Medical Sciences, Jan. 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5776000/.
“Getting Enough Folic Acid.” Getting Enough Folic Acid | CS Mott Children's Hospital | Michigan Medicine, www.mottchildren.org/health-library/ue2418.