Folate is a B group vitamin that is essential for healthy growth and development. Folate is found naturally in food, such as green leafy vegetables, fruits and grains, while folic acid is the synthetic form of folate added to food or used in dietary supplements. Recent intake of dietary folate can be determined by measuring serum folate in a blood test.1 The serum folate test measures the amount of folate circulating in the blood at the time of the test. Low levels of folate during pregnancy may increase the risk of neural tube defect in the developing fetus.1 Note that only the red cell folate biomarker was used to measure the risk of neural tube defect in women of child bearing age (16 to 44 years).
Serum folate results were obtained for persons aged 12 years and over, who participated in the National Health Measures Survey (NHMS) and provided a blood sample. Fasting was not required for this test.
A blood sample was collected from participants and serum folate levels were measured at the Douglass Hanly Moir (DHM) laboratory.
There is no consensus of epidemiological cut off reference values for measuring serum folate in the blood. As such, no cut off points have been defined in the NHMS.
Further information about the analysis method and machines used to measure serum folate levels is available in Excel spreadsheet format in the Downloads page of this product.
The data items and related output categories for this topic are available in Excel spreadsheet format from the Downloads page of this product.
Points to be considered when interpreting data for this topic include the following:
Comparability with other surveys
- Serum folate results do not confirm a specific diagnosis without consultation with a health professional.
- There are a number of different test methods to measure serum folate levels and each test method may produce different results. The data from this topic should therefore be used with caution when comparing serum folate results from other studies using a different test method.
The NHMS is the first ABS survey to collect biomedical data on folate levels.
Folate data has been collected in other non-ABS surveys. However, caution must be taken when interpreting results due to the differences in scope, assay and the instrument used, and any thresholds applied in the final analysis.
Gibson RS 2005, Principles of Nutritional Assessment, 2nd ed
, New York: Oxford University Press.
Heil W and V Ehrhardt 2008, Reference Ranges for Adults and Children: Pre-Analytical Considerations
, Roche Diagnostics GmbH, Mannheim, <https://www.rochediagnostics.fr/Htdocs/media/pdf/actualites/2a_Reference_Ranges_2008.pdf
>, Last accessed 07/11/2013.