The importance of folate intake during the periconceptional period and pregnancy is generally accepted
Gnosis by Lesaffre has released an infographic designed to explain the benefits of its Quatrefolic product over traditional folic acid supplementation in pregnant women. Folate is a generic term used to identify a water-soluble B group of vitamins which include naturally occurring reduced food folate and oxidised synthetic folic acid. Folate: A Functional Food Constituent - Iyer - 2009 - Journal of Food Science - Wiley Online Library
The importance of folate intake during the periconceptional period and pregnancy is generally accepted - it benefits foetal and placental development as well as for the long-term body’s health condition. Folate insufficiency in women of reproductive age (WRA) can lead to pregnancies affected by neural tube defects (NTDs) - such as spina bifida and anencephaly, and can affect the development of the brain and spine.
Humans cannot produce folate by themselves, folate must be therefore necessarily introduced by the diet. 5-MTHF is approximately 98% of all folate in plasma and does not require activation, unlike for food folates and folic acid.
The reasons why different molecular forms of folate are most effective than others are often not fully considered. In vivo, the body converts dietary folic acid and food folates to 5-MTHF (also named L-methylfolate, or 5-methyltetrahydrofolate) through a multi-steps process where the enzyme methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) owns a key role. However, unlike food folates, folic acid must first be reduced to tetrahydrofolate in a two-step reaction via dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) and then further metabolised.
Decreased activities of MTHFR enzyme are present in some individuals, due to their unique genetic patterns and expression: they have polymorphic forms of this enzyme, which are associated with reduced plasma levels of biologically the active 5-MTHF folate. Quatrefolic supplementation may enable a more consistent level of activity, without genetic impact on the bioavailable blood folate, directly providing this useful nutritionally active form of folate to the mother and fetus.
As reported by the WHO, multiple factors influence folate status, including genetics such as the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) gene polymorphism. Others include an individual’s physiological status (age, pregnancy, lactation), biological factors (coexisting vitamin B6 and B12 status, homocysteine levels), and contextual factors such as comorbidities or limited access to dietary folate sources.
Since the association between MTHFR polymorphism and low folate concentration has been assessed, direct supplementation of the active form 5-MTHF like Quatrefolic through prenatal vitamins should be strongly considered.
EFSA has granted health claims for folate like Quatrefolic, related to psychological functions, reduction of tiredness and fatigue, cell division, normal homocysteine metabolism and improved function of the immune system.