The more research I have done on nutrients and supplements, the more I am convinced that folic acid is one of the most important nutrients that a woman should take.
I wish I had known about the importance of folic acid before getting pregnant with our daughter back in 2006 – you can read her story here.
That’s why I want to share this most vital information to all women, especially of child bearing age. Folic acid is one of the most important nutrients you need to be taking before getting pregnant.
Having said that, there is also one form of folic acid that is superior to all others, and it’s now the only kind I personally take or recommend. It’s called 5-methyltetrahydrofolate of 5-MTHF for short. This is the biologically active form of folate, and it is important to take it in this form as not everyone is able to convert ordinary folate supplements into the biologically active form. In other words, people with this genetic enzyme deficiency are not metabolizing ordinary folic acid supplements properly and are therefore not absorbing all the benefits of this essential nutrient.
The 5-MTHF is already in the form most usable by the body, and does not need to be converted by the body. So, it’s the most highly absorbable and active form that you can take.
Here are just some of the benefits of 5-MTHF:
- Protects babies from neural tube defects (such as spina bifida and anencephaly)
- Significantly reduces other birth defects (such as heart defects, cleft palates, etc.)
- Improves cardiovascular health
- It is critical for the health of the nervous system
- Lowers homocysteine levels (high levels are associated with Alzheimer’s disease)
- Can cross the blood-brain barrier to deliver essential nutrients to the brain
You can see that the benefits extend beyond the child bearing years as it is especially helpful for brain health as we age.
I really like Life Extension’s Optimized Folate, as it provides the 5-MTHF in both 1000 and 5000 mcg doses, depending on your needs. I recommend taking at least 1000 mcg a day for a maintenance dose. If you plan on getting pregnant, you may need to up the dose to 4000 or 5000 mcg per day, particularly if you have a family history of birth defects or are 35 or older. And, of course, I recommend you take a high quality prenatal vitamin in addition to the 5-MTHF. Garden of Life and New Chapter make excellent prenatals.
Remember, caring for your health before (not to mention during!) getting pregnant is one of the best things you can do for your baby!