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Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jan;89(1):216-20. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2008.26564. Epub 2008 Dec 3.

Unmetabolized folic acid and total folate concentrations in breast milk are unaffected by low-dose folate supplements.

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Physiology & Experimental Medicine, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, ON, Canada.



Many lactating women in North America are exposed to high synthetic folic acid intakes because of food fortification and vitamin supplement use. Few data exist on the potential long-term effect of high folic acid intakes on milk folate concentrations, whereas no data are available on the effect of supplemental [6S]-5-methyltetrahydrofolate ([6S]-5-methylTHF).


The aim of the present study was to investigate the effect of 3 treatments (placebo, folic acid, and [6S]-5-methylTHF) on milk folate and folate-binding protein (FBP) concentrations and to determine whether unmetabolized folic acid is present in milk.


In this 16-wk randomized, placebo-controlled intervention, 69 lactating women were randomly assigned to receive [6S]-5-methylTHF (416 microg/d, 906 nmol/d) or a placebo, or were assigned to receive folic acid (400 microg/d, 906 nmol/d) within 1 wk postpartum. Total milk folate, FBP, and unmetabolized folic acid concentrations were measured at 16 wk.


Unmetabolized folic acid was detected in 96% of milk samples tested representing approximately 8% of total milk folate concentrations. Total milk folate, FBP, and the proportion of unmetabolized milk folic acid did not differ between treatments; however, FBP concentrations were significantly lower than those published before mandatory folic acid fortification of the food supply.


Maternal intake of synthetic folic acid leads to the appearance of unmetabolized folic acid in milk and, seemingly, a down-regulation of milk FBP synthesis. The impact of these changes on the bioavailability of folate in infants requires further exploration.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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