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Folate for Hair, Skin and Nails

What is Folate?

Folate is also known as the water-soluble vitamin B9.  It is an essential micronutrient. It plays an important role in amino acid and DNA synthesis.1 Our bodies do not have the ability to generate folate by themselves, so it must be introduced through diet or supplementation. Foods rich in folate include:

  • Beef liver
  • Rice
  • Asparagus
  • Brussel sprouts

Many of these would not be on the list of favourite foods for numerous people, and thus it is not surprising that the daily dietary intake of folates is generally below recommended by national health organizations worldwide.

A folate deficiency can be a direct result of any combination of low dietary intake, poor intestinal absorption of ingested folate and increased use through physical activity or pregnancy. Deficiencies in folate have been implicated in birth defects of the brain, spine and spinal cord2 (collectively known as neural tube defects), and has also been linked to heart disease and cancer. Thus, it is especially important that pregnant women maintain the recommended daily dosage of folate, generally achieved through supplementation.

Folate is a general term used to describe a family of compounds that includes folic acid and its derivatives:  5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF), 5-formyltetrahydrofolate (5-FTHF or folinic acid), 10-formyl-THF, 5,10-methyleneTHF, and unsubstituted THF. Our product contains 5-MTHF as it is the most biologically active form of folate and the most abundant form found in plasma. For this reason, the use of 5-MTHF rather than folic acid has been strongly recommended for dietary supplementation and fortification of foods.

Our bodies do not have the ability to generate folate by themselves, so we must get it through diet or supplementation  

Why is Folate in my product? 

A large randomized double-blind trial3 on the effect of folic acid supplementation in 33 health centers across seven countries led to the conclusive result that folate supplementation beginning prior to pregnancy should be recommended for all women who have had a previous pregnancy that resulted in some form of a neural tube defect. This was based on the results of the study, where 27 out of 1195 pregnancies resulted in an infant with a neural tube defect. Of these 27, only 6 were in the cohort with folic acid supplementation, while 21 were in the placebo or a multivitamin supplementation that did not include folate.  The study also led to the recommendation that public health measures should be taken to ensure that all women of child-bearing years obtain diets with sufficient folate.

Deficiencies in folate have also been linked to risk of heart disease4, and over the long term to risk of colorectal cancer5, an observation that has supporting evidence6. The impact of folate deficiencies can also be severe for those suffering from inflammatory bowel diseases and can lead to additional complications such as anemia7, increased risk of blood clotting (thrombophilia), and the previously mentioned colorectal cancer.

Evidence from clinical trials has also provided evidence that insufficient ingestion of folate may be associated with faster cognitive decline8 or risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. In a related study, proper folate levels in the diet over long term were found to lessen the extent of cognitive decline in an elderly population9.

Finally, deficiencies in folate can be a precursor to infectious, allergic, and inflammatory10 diseases. In fact, it has been linked to a higher predisposition to the effects of COVID11 and has been considered in its treatment.

What is the Role of Folate for Hair, Skin and nails?

 An interesting balance exists between folate and vitamin D, to the extent that it is a widely accepted theory towards explaining the evolution of our skin pigmentation12. It is clear that human skin tones evolved as an adaptation to the local levels of ultraviolet radiation, with people of darkest pigmentation having an origin in high-UV level regions close to the equator, whereas the lighter-skinned portion of the global population originated in the low-UV level regions closer to the poles. The link between vitamin D and folate lies in their different sensitivities to UV radiation. UV radiation stimulates vitamin D production in the skin but causes the degradation of folate via free radicals. The vitamin D–folate hypothesis posits that the increased pigmentation in high-UV level regions was driven by a need to protect folate levels against UV-driven degradation, while the tendency for depigmentation is thought to have occurred to enable adequate vitamin D production in regions of lower UV radiation.

For those that suffer from psoriasis, folate supplementation has been found to be a viable therapeutic13 option, indicating that maintenance of adequate levels will decrease the likelihood of psoriasis. Folate deficiency has also been linked to vitiligo14, a condition characterized by patches of depigmented skin. Supplementation has shown positive treatment effects, including repigmentation15 and the condition to stop spreading16. Folate supplementation, albeit topically in this specific case, has also been shown to be effective in the repair of UV radiation-damaged skin, and linked to the ability of folate to contribute to DNA repair and generation. The overall extent of wrinkles and skin roughness were observed to decrease17 with the application. An additional benefit of folate for skin health has also been suggested to be in the prevention of skin cancers18.

Though studies on the effect of folate on hair are sparse, one study has linked a deficiency of folate with premature greying of the hair19.

To summarize, the most important effects of folate are in its contribution to DNA repair and generation, and in particular, this applies to healthy skin, the immune response of the body against disease, and fetal development. Thus, it is particularly important for pregnant women.

References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32961717/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31093652/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1677062/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12387655/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21270374/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15499620/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22488830/
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22067138/
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22077644/
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31058161/
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32911778/
  12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29710859/
  13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17538801/
  14. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26329814/
  15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1516378/
  16. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9394983/
  17. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18254806/
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3795437/
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5514791/
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