Does L-Methylfolate Work?
Using L-Methylfolate for Folate Deficiency
Folate deficiency is relatively uncommon in the United States, but may occur in people with poor nutritional intake. In addition, certain factors may increase the risk for a folate deficiency, such as:
- Chronic alcohol abuse
- Kidney dialysis
- Medical problems that interfere with folate absorption, such as celiac disease
- Certain medications, including methotrexate and phenytoin (Phenytek®, Dilantin®)
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding (folate needs are higher at these times).
Folate deficiency can lead to a variety of problems, most notably anemia. During pregnancy, a folate deficiency can cause neural tube defects in the developing fetus. Symptoms of a deficiency may include:
- Feeling of indifference (apathy)
- Loss of appetite
- Shortness of breath.
Folic acid supplementation is effective at treating folate deficiency. Because L-methylfolate is a form of folic acid, it can also be used to treat a folate deficiency. The body breaks down folic acid into L-methylfolate, which is the active form of the vitamin. Some people are unable to break down folic acid due to a genetic alteration of an enzyme used in this process. For these people, L-methylfolate may be a more effective means for treating folate deficiency.
L-Methylfolate and Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy
Diabetic neuropathy is the medical term for nerve damage associated with diabetes. It occurs when high blood sugar levels damage the nerves and blood vessels in the body. Damaged blood vessels cannot supply the nerves with the nutrients and oxygen they need to function properly. Damaged nerves cannot send out signals as they normally would. As a result, people may experience:
- Loss of sensation or feeling.
L-methylfolate is one of the active ingredients in Metanx, a medical food used as a nutritional supplement in people with diabetic peripheral neuropathy due to blood vessel problems. Although the exact way it works is unknown, Metanx is thought to increase nitric oxide, a natural body substance that dilates, or widens, blood vessels. When blood vessels are dilated, nutrients and oxygen (which are needed for proper nerve function) can flow more freely to the nerves.
The research supporting the use of L-methylfolate for reducing symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy is limited. This does not mean L-methylfolate is not effective at treating diabetic peripheral neuropathy; it just means more scientific research is needed before it becomes a common use.