What is methylfolate?
Methylfolate (also written as l-methylfolate, MTHF, or 5-MTHF) is a type of folate supplement. Folate is a B vitamin (B9) that naturally occurs in most vegetables, such as corn, broccoli, and asparagus, as well as citrus fruits, beans, and seeds.
Methylfolate offers a vast range of health benefits (as we’ll cover below), including benefits you can’t access simply by eating your fair share of vegetables. This makes this supplement a particularly beneficial one to add to your daily routine.
Methylfolate vs Folic Acid: What’s the difference?
“Folic acid” is the manufactured form of folate, which means it contains several types of folate which must be then converted by the body into methylfolate. Methylfolate is an active form of folate which means the body can use it as-is when consumed - it doesn’t need to convert it into anything else to use it. When you take a general folate supplement, your body has to overcome additional hurdles to use it, which can mean your body doesn’t use as much of it as it needs, especially if you’re experiencing health issues that make vitamin uptake more challenging.
Why take methylfolate?
Folate naturally occurs in plenty of vegetables, but eating enough daily can be challenging. The daily recommended intake of folate is 400mg; one cup of broccoli (about 90g) contains 14% of your daily intake, which means you would need to eat the equivalent of 10 cups or 900g of broccoli to eat all your daily recommended intake. That’s a lot of broccoli!
While you can get folate from a variety of sources, it can be stressful trying to cram everything you need into your meals each day, and this is where supplements really shine.
Vitamins B9 and B12 (the two new supplements we’re adding to our range!) are essential for the healthy production of red blood cells, which helps protect you from anaemia. Anaemia can cause dizziness, shortness of breath, and irregular heartbeat, amongst other detrimental symptoms. Taking both of these supplements will ensure you aren’t at risk of anaemia from folate deficiency.
For pregnant women, getting enough folate each day is essential, as a folate deficiency can cause spinal defects in babies.
Methylfolate offers specific benefits, which we’ll look at next.
What are the benefits of taking methylfolate?
6 incredible benefits of taking methylfolate are:
It can help relieve depression: one of the most talked about benefits of taking methylfolate is its effects on depression. Much of the research has looked into its effectiveness in relation to antidepressants (see below), but methylfolate may offer benefits independently, too. Methylfolate is the only form of folate that can cross the blood-brain barrier to enter the brain, where it can play an important role in the carbon cycle metabolic pathway that aids in the production of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, all of which help elevate our mood.
Improves the effectiveness of antidepressant medication: Studies have found that methylfolate enhances the body’s response to antidepressant medications, helping people feel better faster and even go into remission after 12 weeks of treatment.
It can slow or stop the progression of cancerous cells by inactivating genes that promote cancer growth and has also been seen to make chemotherapy more effective. It can also permeate the blood-brain barrier, unlike normal folate, which may prove useful in the treatment of brain tumours.
It ensures healthy spinal cord development in babies: If you’re planning to get pregnant or have recently found out you’re pregnant, it’s vital to get at least the daily recommended intake of folate (400mg) as it helps prevent developmental issues.
Decreases risk of anemia: Our bodies need folate to produce healthy red blood cells, and those deficient in folate can experience anemia.
It bypasses a gene mutation: There is a type of gene mutation that means that the body does not naturally convert folate from food into methylfolate. This gene mutation does not always have obvious symptoms, as the most common are fatigue, anxiety, and depression. Taking methylfolate directly can bypass this gene and give the body what it needs. (If you’ve struggled with these symptoms, your doctor can look at your homocysteine levels in your blood to see if you have this gene.)
Are there any side effects to taking methylfolate?
Since folate is a naturally occurring and abundant vitamin in our food, very few people experience any side effects. Unless you experience an allergic reaction (which is a risk when taking any new supplement), there are no serious risks.
Some minor side effects reported include stomach discomfort (if you have a sensitive stomach, take it before or after a meal rather than without food) and unusual changes in mood, such as overactivity and irritability, though these are rare.
It’s also worth noting that the only people found to experience negative side effects when taking methylfolate are those diagnosed with unipolar and bipolar depression. Some unipolar and bipolar patients included in a successful study on the benefits of taking methylfolate while taking antidepressants were seen to experience increased agitation and mania, though even the number within this subset of people was very small, and symptoms went away as soon as they stopped taking the supplement.
Is methylfolate safe for those pregnant and breastfeeding?
Yes, methylfolate is safe for anyone pregnant or breastfeeding, and it will not harm a nursing baby. In fact, folate supplements are recommended by the NHS for women trying to get pregnant until the end of the first trimester. The NHS recommends you take a 400mg daily supplement to ensure the healthy development of your baby.
It’s always best to consult your doctor before taking a supplement when pregnant or breastfeeding, but most people should be able to take it worry-free.
How do I take methylfolate?
Simply swallow the recommended dosage as directed on the supplement packaging, unless told otherwise by your doctor. You can take methylfolate with or without food, with or without other supplements, at any time of day (though some experts believe taking it in the morning or at lunchtime is most beneficial). There are also no reported adverse reactions with other medications, but as always, check with your doctor.
Where can I buy a methylfolate supplement in the UK?
Methylfolate can be created by the body converting folate, but a gene mutation, digestive issues, other illnesses, or a poor diet can restrict how much our bodies create. Supplementing your diet with methylfolate is the best way to ensure you stay in good health and feel positive. Our supplements are vegan-friendly, high-quality, and eco-friendly, so you can be happy in the knowledge that you’re bettering the planet as well as your body.