What Are Activated B Vitamins?

What Are Activated B Vitamins?

You may have noticed that some products list activated B vitamins in their ingredient listing. You might be wondering, what exactly does this mean?

Normally, when we consume B vitamins in foods via our diet, those organic forms of B vitamins found in food are actually inactive nutrient forms and your body needs to use enzymes to convert them into active forms so you can use them for their metabolic actions. 

When a B vitamin in a supplement is ‘activated’, it means that the B vitamin is already in the form that your body would have needed to convert it into for use. This can be advantageous because without having to perform that biotransformation step from inactive to active, it’s going to be able to get right to work to perform the functions you want the B vitamin to do. Converting inactive nutrients into their active forms takes time, energy and nutrients to run the pathways that help facilitate the process, so skipping this step is considerably less burdensome on your body’s resources. 

Another advantage to using activated B vitamins is that some people can have genetic alterations to the enzyme pathways that convert them into their active form. These genetic changes are called polymorphisms (pronounced; Poly-more-fiz-ems). One of the most well-known examples of this is MTHFR (methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase) which is the enzyme responsible for converting folate from food and other sources into the active form 5-MTHF. 

What Activated B Vitamins Are There?

There are four main activated B vitamins that are currently found in supplements.


Vitamin B9 Folic Acid, folate, tetrahydrofolate. 5-MTHF (5-methylenetetrahydrofolate)



Vitamin B12 Cobalamin, cyanocobalamin Hydroxycobalamin, Methylcobalamin
Vitamin B5 Pyridoxine hydrochloride 5-pyridoxal-phosphate
Vitamin B2 Riboflavin Riboflavin sodium phosphate

Of all the activated B vitamins, arguably one of the most important ones to be aware of when it comes to choosing an activated form, is folate. Folate is necessary for healthy DNA, mood, detoxification, hormones and much more. The role of folate in DNA replication is why it’s critically essential for pregnant women, to prevent birth defects, as the DNA from the mother and father is replicated (copied) into a new baby’s DNA. Successful reproduction depends heavily on your availability of folate, and without sufficient levels, fertility problems can arise. (NB: this affects both men and women). 

The Important Difference Between Folate, Folic Acid and Active Folate

For many years, health professionals and researchers have been led to believe that folic acid and folate are the same. This is where it can get a little confusing because these terms are often used incorrectly (even in research papers) as interchangeable synonyms. However, they are actually quite different and as recent research is uncovering, they have different health outcomes in the body.  

Folate is the natural, organic form of vitamin B9 that can be found in foods, like leafy green vegetables. It enters the body as tetrahydrofolate and still needs to be converted into activated (5-methyl) folate through an enzyme pathway called MTHFR.

Folic acid is a synthetic (man-made) ‘copy’ of vitamin B9 that was created in a lab to commercially manufacture a stable folate-like substance that could be used in fortifying this important vitamin in foods and supplements. To use folic acid, your body needs to first transform the folic acid into tetrahydrofolate (the food form), then into an active form for use by the body. These additional steps require involvement from another enzyme in the liver (DHFR), in addition to the MTHFR enzyme. 

Active folate is methyl folate. It is the biologically relevant form that your body uses for all its important functions and requires no additional biotransformation steps. When supplementing with an already activated form of folate, you get immediate use of this vital nutrient for all its important functions and we can also bypass any slow or faulty MTHFR metabolic pathways.

What is Quatrefolic®? 

The latest evolution in folate supplements is a unique proprietary activated folate called Quatrefolic®. This form of bio-activated methyl folate has been developed in a unique glucosamine salt combination that facilitates a more rapid absorption over the more common calcium salt combination. By using a glucosamine salt as part of the molecule, clinical trials have shown it reaches peak concentration up to 20% faster than standard 5-MTHF calcium salt formulations and has 10% better bioavailability. 

Activated folate supplements are the newest generation of folate supplementation available and represent a progression in the science and understanding of how folate needs can be more effectively met. Choosing an active folate supplement over folic acid means you’re giving your body an instant hit of much-needed folate, that it can put to use right away.

Choose Activated B Vitamins. 

The bottom line on B vitamins is that when supplementing, activated forms are superior choices for bioavailability and to maximise the beneficial effects of the B’s you’re taking. It takes the pressure off the body’s enzymatic pathways, freeing up those resources that may be deployed elsewhere. 

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