Supported by significant external funding (> GBP5M; 2000-2020) from the Food Standards Agency, the European Commission, UKRI and industry, we have a built a dedicated, and internationally recognised, research programme focused on folate in health and disease.
Our landmark findings showed important stability and bioavailability differences between naturally-occurring food sources of folate and the synthetic vitamin form, folic acid.
We showed that, compared with folic acid (present only in fortified foods and supplements), the naturally-occurring (polyglutamylated) forms of folate in food have poor stability under normal conditions of cooking and limited bioavailability once ingested by the body.
These findings, in turn, greatly limit a person’s ability to achieve optimal nutritional status of folate from natural food sources alone. We showed that the addition of a low-dose folic acid supplement to the diet can greatly enhance folate status in the blood, and in turn substantially lower homocysteine, a metabolite linked with adverse health outcomes throughout life from pregnancy to older age. Furthermore, we demonstrated that regular consumers of folic acid-fortified foods had significantly higher blood concentrations of folate, and lower homocysteine, compared with non-consumers.