By Kristy Podruchny

Folate, also known as vitamin B9, helps us make healthy cells and DNA.  It’s particularly important for brain health and has been getting some attention after genetic testing for the MTHFR variant became available through in-home testing.  Everyone needs folate for efficient and happy brain cells and ultimately for healthy aging.  Getting your folate from quality foods and supplements is key!

This B vitamin plays a vital role maintaining a healthy brain.  One of its jobs is to break down an amino acid called homocysteine. Elevated levels of homocysteine can inhibit brain function and has been linked to dementia, Alzheimer’s and depression.

A review published in the “British Medical Journal” discussed findings that link folate deficiencies to these conditions and linked proper folate supplementation to effective treatment.  Other studies in this review suggested that age-related changes in the brain can be reversed using folate supplementation.  Methylfolate, a readily-absorbable type of folate found in high-quality supplements, was even found to be comparable to an antidepressant medication.  This easily-overlooked deficiency can make a huge difference now and as we age.

Folic acid, folate’s synthetic form, is used to fortify cereals and other processed foods.  For people with an MTHFR genetic variant, folic acid isn’t metabolized well in the body and can lead to a deficiency.  This genetic variant can affect the way our body processes folate as well, regardless of how many leafy greens you eat—taking special supplements might be necessary.  Other risk factors for a folate deficiency include smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol and diet.  As always, a healthy lifestyle is crucial for your health!

If you don’t have a problem absorbing folate, getting enough of it in your day is as easy as making a trip to your local farmer’s market or grocery store.  Keep your eye out for folate-rich foods like spinach, black-eyed peas, asparagus and Brussels sprouts. Leafy greens and legumes do more than serve a hearty serving of folate, they offer other vitamins, minerals and fiber that help build and maintain health and keep illness at bay.  Think of foods rich in folate or supplements as natural medicine that keeps your cells, brain and DNA in good shape.

For more information on the MTHFR Genetic Variant, go to and a folate specialist will help you.

One of the jobs folate does for us is to break down an amino acid called homocysteine.

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