Ingredient Spotlight: Folate and HPV

Table of Contents

What is folate? 

Folate, or its synthetic form, folic acid, is a member of the B vitamin family. It’s a water-soluble vitamin that is heavily involved in many key processes in the body. 

Folate is essential for the production of red and white blood cells and other important cells that help to convert food into energy and make DNA. Folate also plays an important role in the reproductive tract and is needed to maintain a healthy pregnancy. 

Our bodies cannot make folate on their own so we rely on nutrients in our diet or via supplementation to achieve adequacy. Research on HPV has begun to highlight a strong association between folate deficiency and cervical dysplasia, emphasizing the importance of incorporating more folate-rich foods into our diet as well as taking a quality supplement.

What’s the difference between folic acid and folate? 

Folate differs from folic acid in the way that it gets converted in the digestive tract. Folate is immediately converted into the active form of B9. Folic acid, however, enters the blood stream and passes through the liver and other tissues in order to be converted. 

Folic acid is thought to be better absorbed, however, it is metabolized at a slower rate, which means more can accumulate and linger in the system and may lead to excess. Folate, on the other hand, will be excreted if too much is consumed. 

Folate deficiency

Folate plays a critical role in the body so when it is lacking, it can lead to suboptimal health but it is not always easy to know when you are low in B9. Some symptoms include unexplained fatigue, anemia, muscle weakness, shortness of breath, difficulty focusing, brain fog, headaches, and heart palpitations. 

Deficiencies in folate can cause something called megaloblastic anemia, which is when your blood cells form in an improper shape. This hinders their ability to function correctly in your body. Folate is especially important for pregnant women, as deficiencies can cause neural tube defects in a growing fetus. 

Benefits of folate consumption

The average adult is recommended to take 400mcg of folate daily. Although folate is best known for preventing neural tube defects in the fetus, newer research is showing benefits in cancer prevention, including breast, bladder, cervical, ovarian and even pancreatic cancers. 

Folate is involved in reducing homocysteine levels, which elevations of this can lead to heart disease, folate intake can reduce your risk for heart disease. Recent research is also finding a connection between adequate intake of folate for the reduction of autism spectrum disorder, dementia, Alzheimer’s and even depression. 

Food sources of folate:

  • Dark green leafy veggies
  • Broccoli
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Green peas
  • Liver
  • Asparagus
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Avocado
  • Fortified grains

Folate and HPV

Folate in one of the several key nutrients studied in relation to HPV. 

Folates role in HPV is likely related to its methylation cycle which ensures our genes are functioning normally. Current research highlights the relationship between low levels of folate in the blood and high risk of HPV infection through promotion of cervical dysplasia development.

Studies have found that individuals with a folate deficiency have an increased risk of positive HPV status, as well as an increased risk of progression to cervical or oral cancer. Whereas women with higher plasma folate and B12 levels with HPV-16 positivity were 60-75% less likely to be diagnosed with moderate cervical dysplasia. 

All in all, an extensive amount of research supports the statement that folate plays a protective role in HPV progression to cervical cancer. 


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