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Wednesday, 4 March 2015

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Folic Acid Testing

A folate test determines the level of folate in the blood. Folate is one of a number of B vitamins. The body requires folate for normal growth as well as the production of red blood cells (RBC), white blood cells (WBC), and platelets. Folate is also necessary for a baby's normal development (fetus).

Folate can be measured in the blood's liquid portion (plasma). This reflects a person's most recent dietary intake of folate and folic acid. Foods high in folate include liver, citrus fruits, dark green, leafy vegetables (spinach), whole grains, and beans. Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate. It can be found in vitamin pills and fortified foods such as breakfast cereals.

Folate levels in red blood cells can also be measured. This test may be more accurate than the plasma test in determining the amount of folate stored in the body. The amount of folate in red blood cells reflects the level at the time the cell was formed, which can be up to four months ago. This level is usually unaffected by the amount of folate and folic acid you consume on a daily basis. It is a more precise method of determining the body's folate level.

Megaloblastic anemia is a type of anemia caused by a lack of folate. Mild folate deficiency is frequently asymptomatic. A sore tongue, diarrhea, headaches, weakness, forgetfulness, and fatigue are all symptoms of severe folate deficiency.


Why Is This Done?

  • A folate test may be performed to: Determine the cause of anemia. A folate test is frequently performed concurrently with a vitamin B12 level test because deficiencies in either vitamin can result in anemia.
  • Examine for malnutrition or problems absorbing folate (malabsorption).
  • Check to see if your treatment for folate or vitamin B12 deficiency is effective.
  • Examine a woman's folate levels to see if she has enough to prevent certain birth defects and allow her baby to grow normally.


How To Prepare

  • Do not eat or drink anything (other than water) for 8 to 10 hours before the folate plasma test. If you take any medications on a regular basis, your doctor will advise you on how to take them before the test.
  • There is nothing you need to do before having a folate red blood cell test.
  • How It Is Done
  • A needle is used by a health professional to take a blood sample, usually from the arm.
  • What It's Like
  • You may not feel anything from the needle when a blood sample is taken. You may also feel a quick sting or pinch.


  • This test has very little chance of causing a problem. A small bruise may form at the site of a blood sample collection.
  • Results sNormal
  • Each laboratory has a different normal range. Your lab report should include the range used by your lab for each test. The normal range is only a guideline. Your results will also be evaluated by your doctor based on your age, health, and other factors. A value that is outside of the normal range may be normal for you.

High values

  • High levels of folate in the blood may indicate that you consume a folate or folic acid-rich diet, take vitamins, or take folic acid pills. Consuming more folate than the body requires has no negative consequences.
  • High folate levels can also indicate a lack of vitamin B12. To use folate, body cells require vitamin B12. If vitamin B12 levels are very low, cells cannot use folate, and high levels of it may accumulate in the blood. However, a folate test is not a reliable way to detect vitamin B12 deficiency.

Low values

  • Low folate levels can indicate a dietary problem, an alcohol use disorder, or an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa.
  • Low folate levels may also indicate a problem absorbing or utilizing folate, such as vitamin C deficiency, liver disease, celiac disease, sprue, or Crohn's disease.
  • Low folate levels can be problematic for some people. As an example:
  • A pregnant woman requires extra folate to support her growing baby.
  • People with hemolytic anemia, a condition that causes rapid destruction of red blood cells, require more folate in order to produce more red blood cells.
  • Certain conditions, such as kidney failure and certain types of cancer, can cause a rapid depletion of folate. They may require a machine to clean their blood (kidney dialysis).

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