The terms "Folate" and "folic acid", also known as vitamin B9, are often used interchangeably to indicate a group of water soluble B-vitamins.
Actually there are differences in the forms:
1st generation - Food folate
Refers to the various tetrahydrofolate derivatives naturally present in foods.
2nd generation - Folic acid
Got its name from folium, the Latin word for leaf, when it was isolated from spinach in 1941. It is a synthetic oxidized molecule, that does not occur in nature but can be utilized by the human body as a precursor to form natural folates that are biologically active.
Folic acid lacks coenzyme activity and must be reduced to the metabolically active form within the cell, through a series of biochemical steps before it can be used by the body's cells in vital metabolic pathways such as DNA production, cell reproduction and homocysteine metabolism.
3rd generation - (6S)-5-methyltetrahydrofolate calcium salt
In 1989 Bioresearch S.p.A. was the first company to evaluate the real importance of 5-methyltetrahydrofolate and filed the use of stable pharmaceutical composition of 5-methyltetrahydrofolate.
The calcium salt of 5-methyltetrahydrofolate is available commercially and represents the third generation of folate. Until now, 5-methyltetrahydrofolate calcium salt was the only folic acid derivative available on the market, and able to penetrate the body cells without the need of further metabolism process.
The 4th generation: Quatrefolic®
The goal for Gnosis' R&D was to develop an innovative folate salt form ables to overcome the existing calcium salt form limitations related to stability and poor solubility.
In February 2008, Gnosis patented a new generation of folate derivative, brand named Quatrefolic®, (6S)-5-methyltetrahydrofolate glucosamine salt.
Quatrefolic® represents the fourth generation folate endowed with long lasting stability as well as a peculiarly high water solubility, improved bioavailability and well established safety.