Folate deficiency among Australians is more common than recently thought. I have had several patients lately who are plagued with oral ulcers and soreness in their mouth. Interestingly, the common primary cause was a folate deficiency, and folinic acid supplementation was found to assist with this annoying condition.
Let me elaborate further. Dietary folate is essential in vitamin B12 formation and DNA synthesis and repair. Inadequate levels of this vitamin can lead to weight gain, fatigue, depression and anaemia. Other studies link low levels of folate to developmental delay, seizures and even autism.
So why is folate deficiency so common in our modern society? Dietary folate found in certain fruits and vegetables is easily destroyed by cooking and commercial farming reduces the presence of this vitamin in our food supply. Folic acid (the synthetic version of naturally occurring folate) is often supplemented in food products and multivitamins to overcome this limitation.
Folic acid seems like the magic bullet to restore this deficiency however many people carry a faulty gene (called the MTHFR gene) that prevents the conversion of folic acid to the active form. A simple blood test can determine if you carry this faulty gene.
Some researchers suggest that up to 50 per cent of the population may carry this gene, and are basically perpetuating a chronic deficiency of vitamin B12 and DNA synthesis! To make matters worse, common medications such as aspirin, cholesterol-lowering drugs and antacids inhibit the use of folate, meaning that people taking these drugs have an even greater need for dietary folate.
It is worthwhile considering supplementating your diet with an activated form of folate such as folinic acid. Folinic acid provides the body with a vitamin it can utilise for all of its necessary functions.