Is Folate in Food Safe for MTHFR Mutants?

The question of  folate in food safe for MTHFR mutants has, like everything else about MTHFR, a complex answer: yes and no.  Sigh. But actually there’s a pretty easy split, and that’s between foods naturally high in folate, and foods fortified with folic acid.

Foods Naturally High in Folate

This list is all awesomeness. These are great healthy foods that most people want to incorporate into their diet but many of us mutants (MTHFR mutants that is) hesitate because of the folate content. Great news folks – naturally occuring folate is actually not a problem with the MTHFR mutation. Here’s the thing – what we call “folate” isn’t actually just one thing. In nature it’s a collection of related molecules in the family of pteroylglutamates (say that three times fast).  Folate can be used directly by the human body, it doesn’t have to be converted into anything and so with or without a MTHFR mutation we can use folate well.

We use folate to synthesize, repair and methylate DNA, and as a cofactor in a number of reactions in the human body.  It’s especially important in periods of rapid growth and cell division  – so infancy, growth spurts and pregnancy. We also use it to make our red blood cells and deficiency is one of the causes of anemia.

Is folate in food safe for MTHFR mutants? In these foods YES. Thanks to exhibithealth.com for the great image.

Is folate in food safe for MTHFR mutants? In these foods YES. Thanks to exhibithealth.com for the great image.

Foods Highest in Folate (Safe for MTHFR)

Beans and Pulses:

  • Black eyed Peas – 356 mcg/cup serving (89% daily value)
  • Mung beans – 80% DV per cup serving
  • Pinto beans – 74% DV per cup serving
  • Chickpeas – 71% DV per cup serving
  • Lentils – 90% DV per cup serving

Dark Green Leafy Veggies:

  • Spinach – 66% DV per cup serving (cooked)
  • Turnip greens – 42% DV per cup serving (cooked)
  • Romaine Lettuce – 16% DV per cup serving (raw)

Brassica Family Veggies:

  • Broccoli – 42% DV per cup serving (cooked)
  • Cauliflower – 14% DV per cup serving (cooked)
  • Brussels sprouts – 25% DV per cup serving (cooked)

Odd Ducks:

  • Avocado – 30% DV per cup serving (raw)
  • Mango – 18% DV per cup serving (raw)
  • Oranges – 18% DV per cup serving (raw)
  • Asparagus – 68% DV per cup serving (cooked)
  • Okra – 37% DV per cup serving (cooked)
  • Liver – 50-60% DV per 3 oz serving (because nobody eats a cup of liver.) Percentage range depending on the type of animal the liver comes from.




The answer to the question ‘Is NATURALLY OCCURING folate in foods safe for MTHFR mutants?’ Is a resounding YES.

Foods Fortified with Folic Acid

Here’s where the MTHFR group get tripped up. Often ‘folate’ and ‘folic acid’ are used interchangeably to refer to the same thing, because they theoretically do the same things in the body.  Except for MTHFR mutants they really don’t do the same thing because we have varying degrees of impairment with the enzyme that converts folic acid to folate. This means that MTHFR mutants really can’t count folic acid, which is the synthetic, lab-created, oxidized form of folate which is really not found so much in nature.  This requires functioning MTHFR genes to be converted into a usable form of folate.  If you don’t have good function of your MTHFR genes (and just a note – we all have some function, we’re just impaired) then you don’t get to use this form very well.

Folic Acid ≠ Folate

The issue with eating a lot of foods fortified with folic acid for an MTHFR mutant is that the folic acid competes at receptor sites with natural folate that is coming from your diet. This means the synthetic folic acid makes the natural folate less effective because much of the time the synthetic (unusable) form is clogging up the folate receptors.

Foods Most Likely to Be Fortified with Folic Acid (Unsafe for MTHFR Mutants):

Grains:

  • Breads
  • Cereals
  • Pasta
  • Flour
  • Baking mixes

So – is Fortified “Folic Acid” folate in food safe for MTHFR mutants? Absolutely Not.

The best strategy to make your foods MTHFR friendly is to eat whole foods, natural unfortified whole grains, and skip the fortified garbage.  There are many dangers of folic acid (and not just to MTHFR mutants – we’ll talk about that later) so avoid it wherever possible and add naturally-occurring folate-rich foods into your diet wherever you can. One more time: Is folate in food safe for MTHFR mutants? You betcha, but folic acid isn’t.



17 thoughts on “Is Folate in Food Safe for MTHFR Mutants?

  1. Pingback: Am I Overmethylated? MTHFR Questions. | To Health With That!

  2. Tara

    Hi, I was just wondering what the dangers of folic acid where that you mentioned above. I didn’t see anything more in-depth about that and I am curious. My sister and her kids are vegan and the kids all tested extremely HIGH for B12, even though they don’t supplement. I think a couple of them (2 of 4) were found to have a MTHFR mutation, but don’t know the details. Wondering if folic acid that’s commonly added to fortified foods could cause a buildup of B12 and if the MTHFR has anything to do with that?

    Reply
    1. amyneuzil Post author

      Hi Tara,
      Interesting! So – the B12 testing *might* be related to MTHFR and folic acid fortified foods, but B12 is different from folate, so it also might be unrelated. One of the things I look for in vegans is how much supplemented foods are they eating? Lots of the vegan-specific foods are fortified with B12 specifically (or nutritional yeast) because it’s generally hard for vegans to get enough, so it could be that? Do you know if the kids who had the MTHFR mutation were higher or lower than the kids who didn’t? In terms of the risks of folic acid – we’re really still learning about this, but there seems to be some mixed studies out there showing negative effects on cancer etc… Here’s a good link with more information.

      Reply
  3. Jo

    Hey there,
    I tested positive for Hetero C667t and have been extensively comparing brands and versions of methylfolate alone and in a B complex but just feel uneasy about taking synthetic vitamins. Garden of Life does have a Raw
    B complex vitamin that I feel comfortable with, but it lists the folate as simply 450 mcg folate, and obviously not a synthetic methylfolate like Metafolin. I have contacted their company and waiting for a response as to whether their folate is biologically identical to folate found in whole food sources and therefore I should have no issues with it and it would be naturally methylated. Do you think my logic here makes sense? I definitely am thinking that I should take a B complex to help balance things out so am thinking I could take the Garden of Life whole food B complex and then if need be add small doses, like 200 mcg, of Solgar methylated folate until I reach a good level for me. So my questions are do you think the 450 mcg folate in Garden of Life’s B complex is equivalent to methylated folate if it truly is non-synthetic and comes from whole foods? And, if the body would see it as simply folate and couldn’t methylate it, do you think it would be harmful to someone with a MTHFR mutation? Thanks for any thoughts you’d like to share!! 🙂

    Reply
    1. amyneuzil Post author

      Hi Jo,
      If it’s truly a food-sourced folate then I think you’d be great with it. The labeling laws are a little tricky so “folate” can unfortunately mean a lot of things but as long as you check with the company and make sure it’s all from food sources then it sounds like a great plan to me. Also you can try increasing your dietary intake using foods high in natural folate – here’s a whole post about it. Let me know how it goes!

      Reply
  4. Allyson

    I have tested positive for MTHFER but when I take methylated folic acid I am very stimulated and can not sleep for at least 30 – 40 hours. I am usually very tried but this was too much and it did not wear off.

    Reply
    1. amyneuzil Post author

      Hi Allyson,
      God I feel your pain – 5MTHF can be so difficult to start. Did you start with a low dose? For people who are ultra sensitive to the methyl folate there are a couple of options. One is to start with an incredibly low dose – find a 400 mcg capsule, open it and divide the powder into smaller parts – I had one client who divided hers into 10 parts and started with just one of those per day. Ridiculous and slightly difficult, but it might get you there. The other thing you can try is eliminating all folic acid supplemented foods and adding food sources of folate (which are the active form). I’ve got a whole post on folate in food here. Let me know what happens!

      Reply
  5. Pingback: Exercise and Change in Diet can help aid Depression Symptoms | Depression & Holistic Health

  6. Bree

    Hi Amy, After trying to conceive my 2nd child for a 1.5 years and having 2 miscarriages, I was tested for MTHFR. I tested heterozygous for both C667T and A1298C (one copy of each). My Dr prescribed a prenatal plus 3mg daily of folic acid, not folate. After all this research it is clear that I should be taking folate but I’m just not sure how much to take. My Dr is wonderful but seems to use the terms folic acid and folate interchangeably. I also have pernicious anemia and I’m on monthly B12 injections. I also currently take a low dose of medication for hypothyroid. If there’s any support or thoughts you could offer, it would be greatly appreciated!

    Reply
    1. amyneuzil Post author

      Hi Bree,
      Sadly it’s really common for doctors to believe that folic acid and folate are interchangeable, even though they are distinct substances. This is simply because for people without the MTHFR mutation, they are interchangeable. It’s really just us mutants who have a problem. It might be a good idea to take your doctor some literature on the difference between folate and folic acid, or at least the basics of the MTHFR mutation. There are plenty of great 5-MTHF supplements that you could talk with your doctor about substituting, and look into a good methylated prenatal. The one I used in my pregnancy was Thorne Research Basic Prenatal. Each dose of 3 capsules have 1 mg methylfolate. Good luck to you!

      Reply
  7. Karen

    Could one with MTHFR SNPs get all the folate they need through food or is it necessary to supplement for optimal physical and mental health? My family of four (including me) have SNPs and my kids and husband have ADD. I’ve read that MTHFR mutations play a role in mental health as well.

    Reply
    1. amyneuzil Post author

      Hi Karen,
      I think for basic bodily functions it’s entirely possible to get all the folate you need from food sources, but when there are more complex mental health issues like ADD it may not be easy to get enough from food to make a difference with symptoms, if that makes sense. Something like ADD might respond better to a combo of food sources and supplements. Meditation really helps too – although it’s possibly the hardest thing for people with ADD to learn, it’s really valuable long-term.

      Reply
  8. Cathy Murphy

    My genotype came back as C/T A/C and under “predicted phenotype it says “greatly reduced activity” on a card I am suppose to keep in my wallet. Can you help me understand what this is…the C/T A/C?

    Reply
    1. amyneuzil Post author

      Hi Cathy,
      It all sounds like gibberish, right? I hate the way they report genetics results. The C/T and A/C refer to the different gene “snips” that they test. The two genes that are usually tested that are involved with methylation are the C677T snip (C/T) and the A1298C gene (A/C). The C677T report can read C/C, C/T, T/C, or T/T depending on what variances you have. Like wise the A1298C can read A/A, A/C, C/A, or C/C (Also there is technically no difference between A/C and C/A – those represent the same genotype. Likewise with C/T and T/C). The normal “wild-type” gene profile is C677C (or C/C) and A1298A or T1298T (A/A or T/T). This means that you have one bad copy of each gene. That is exactly what I have and if you’re reading articles about it it’s called “compound heterozygous” mutation. Ha! Now read this five times and it might make sense. 🙂

      Reply
  9. Ben

    Fantastic resource for those with MTHFR. It can be difficult for some to identify which foods have folic acid and which have naturally occurring folate. Supplements are another thing to keep in mind, avoid folic acid and look for folate instead.

    Reply

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