Softgel capsules equal tablets for folic acid dose: Study

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Folic acid

Softgels just as effective as tablets, says new study
Softgels just as effective as tablets, says new study
The availability of folic acid from softgel capsules or standard tablets is approximately the same, says a new study that supports both delivery forms for a daily folic acid dose.

Absorption of folic acid from softgel capsules also containing multivitamins and the omega-3 DHA was found to be the same as when the B vitamin is absorbed from solid tablets, according to results presented at the recent Experimental Biology (EB) 2011 annual meeting in Washington DC.

"With the increasing science on folic acid and the rise in popularity of softgel capsules, we felt it was important to examine the differences in vitamin formulations, specifically prenatal multivitamin with folic acid plus DHA softgels versus tablets, and how that might affect their bioavailability,”​ said study co-author James Brooks, PhD, vice president of science and technology at Pharmavite, LLC.

“We found that softgels are just as effective as the tablets in delivering folic acid,”​ he added.

Benefits for babies

An overwhelming body of evidence links has linked folate deficiency in early pregnancy to increased risk of neural tube defects (NTD) - most commonly spina bifida and anencephaly - in infants.

This connection led to the 1998 introduction of public health measures in the US and Canada, where all grain products are fortified with folic acid - the synthetic, bioavailable form of folate.

Preliminary evidence indicates that the measure is having an effect with a reported 15 to 50 per cent reduction in NTD incidence. A total of 51 countries now have some degree of mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid.

Other countries are also considering such fortification measures: In the meantime, recommendations for women of child-bearing age to consume folic acid supplements continue.

The formulation of supplements, the presence of fillers, and the coatings used in various supplements is reported to affect the rate at which a product dissolves and releases its contents on passage through the gastrointestinal tract.

Pharmavite scientists, working with scientists from Biofortis-Provident Clinical Research in Glen Ellyn, IL, tested if the B vitamin was affected by formulating as part of a multivitamin with DHA in a softgel capsule, compared to a standard tablet.


The study involved 16 women aged between 18 and 45. The participants received a single dose of either 800 micrograms of folic acid tablet form (Nature Made) or 800 micrograms of folic acid in a multivitamin plus DHA softgel capsule (Nature Made).

Results presented to EB2011 attendees showed that the rate of absorption from the softgels was slower than the tablet, but the overall amount of folic acid absorbed was similar.

Source: Experimental Biology (EB) 2011
Late Breaking Poster # LB176
“Absorption of Folic Acid is Similar from a Softgel Capsule and a Standard Tablet”
​Authors: K.C. Maki, K.M. Kelley, A.L. Lawless, et al.

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