Folate, also known as folic acid, folacin, vitamin M, and pteroylglutamic acid, belongs to the water-soluble B vitamin family. Take our quiz to discover its essential role in the human body.

True or false?

  1. Folate takes its name from the Latin word “folliculus,” for leaf.
  2. Folate, the natural form found in foods, is more easily absorbed by the body than folic acid, the synthetic form of folate used in supplements and fortified foods.
  3. Adequate folate levels may help protect against certain types of cancer.
  4. Folate is an essential nutrient for everyone; however, it is most critical for men.

Answers

  1. False. Folate actually takes its name from “folium,” for leaf. (Folliculus means “small bag.”) The nutrient was discovered in dark green leafy vegetables and can be found in spinach and turnip greens as well as dry beans, peas, orange juice, toasted wheat germ, and beef liver. A variety of cereals and products, such as rice and pastas, are fortified with folic acid and may provide up to 100 percent of the recommended dietary allowance per serving (check nutritional labels).
  2. False. According to the National Institutes of Health, synthetic folic acid has a simpler chemical structure than natural folate and is absorbed more easily by the body. After digestion and absorption, the two forms are identical and function in exactly the same manner.
  3. True. Since folate is involved in the synthesis, repair, and functioning of DNA, a folate deficiency may result in DNA damage that may lead to cancer. Several studies have associated diets low in folate with increased risk of breast, pancreatic, and colon cancers.
  4. False. Folate serves a critical function in growth and reproduction. For women, taking folic acid (the synthetic form of folate) prior to and during pregnancy protects against a number of congenital malformations, including neural tube birth defects. All women capable of becoming pregnant are advised to take 400 mcg of folic acid daily and increase to 600 mcg once pregnant.