Skip to main content

Folate bioavailability: UK Food Standards Agency workshop report

  • Peter Sanderson (a1), Helene McNulty (a2), Pierpaolo Mastroiacovo (a3), Ian F. W. McDowell (a4), Alida Melse-Boonstra (a5), Paul M. Finglas (a6) and Jess F. Gregory (a7)...

The UK Food Standards Agency convened a group of expert scientists to review current research investigating folate bioavailability. The workshop aimed to overview current research and establish priorities for future research. Discrepancies were observed in the evidence base for folate bioavailability, especially with regard to the relative bioavailability of natural folates compared with folic acid. A substantial body of evidence shows folic acid to have superior bioavailability relative to food folates; however, the exact relative bioavailability still needs to be determined, and in particular with regard to mixed diets. The bioavailability of folate in a mixed diet is probably not a weighted average of that in the various foods consumed; thus the workshop considered that assessment of folate bioavailability of whole diets should be a high priority for future research.

    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Folate bioavailability: UK Food Standards Agency workshop report
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Folate bioavailability: UK Food Standards Agency workshop report
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Folate bioavailability: UK Food Standards Agency workshop report
      Available formats
Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: Dr Peter Sanderson, fax +44 20 7276 8906, email
Hide All
Appel, LJ, Miller, ER III & Jee, SH (2000) Effect of dietary patterns on serum homocysteine: results of a randomized, controlled feeding study. Circulation 102, 852857.
Ashfield-Watt, PA, Pullin, CH & Whiting, JM (2002) Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase 677C- - ->T genotype modulates homocysteine responses to a folate-rich diet or a low-dose folic acid supplement: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr 76, 180186.
Bhandari, SD & Gregory, JF III (1992) Folic acid, 5-methyl-tetrahydrofolate and 5-formyl-tetrahydrofolate exhibit equivalent intestinal absorption, metabolism and in vivo kinetics in rats. J Nutr 122, 18471854.
Blount, CB, Mack, MM, Wehr, CM et al. (1997) Folate deficiency causes uracil misincorporation into human DNA and chromosome breakage: implications for cancer and neuronal damage. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 94, 32903295.
Boddie, AM, Dedlow, ER, Nackashi, JA et al. (2000) Folate absorption in women with a history of neural tube defect-affected pregnancy. Am J Clin Nutr 72, 154158.
Botto, LD & Yang, Q (2000) 5,10-Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase gene variants and congenital abnormalities: a HuGE review. Am J Epidemiol 151, 862877.
Boushey, CJ, Beresford, SA, Omenn, GS & Motulsky, AG (1995) A quantitative assessment of plasma homocysteine as a risk factor for vascular disease – probable benefits of increasing folic acid intakes. JAMA 274, 10491057.
Bronner, F (1993) Nutrient bioavailability, with special reference to calcium. J Nutr 123, 797802.
Castenmiller, JJ, Van de Poll, CJ, West, CE, Brouwer, IA, Thomas, CM & van Dusseldorp, M (2000) Bioavailability of folate from processed spinach in humans. Effect of food matrix and interaction with carotenoids. Ann Nutr Metab 44, 163169.
Davis, BA, Bailey, LB, Gregory, JF III, Toth, JP, Dean, J & Stevenson, RE (1995) Folic acid absorption in women with a history of pregnancy with neural tube defect. Am J Clin Nutr 62, 782784.
Devlin, AM, Ling, EH & Peerson, JM (2000) Glutamate carboxypeptidase II: a polymorphism associated with lower levels of serum folate and hyperhomocysteinemia. Hum Mol Genet 9, 28372844.
Engbersen, AM, Franken, DG, Boers, GH, Stevens, EM, Trijbels, FJ & Blom, HJ (1995) Thermolabile 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase as a cause of mild hyperhomocysteinemia. Am J Hum Genet 56, 142150.
Gregory, JF III (1997) Bioavailability of folate. Eur J Clin Nutr 51, Suppl. 1, S54S59.
Gregory, JF III (2001) Case study: folate bioavailability. J Nutr 131, 1376S1382S.
Homocysteine Lowering Trialists’ Collaboration (1998) Lowering blood homocysteine with folic acid based supplements: meta-analysis of randomised trials. Br Med J 316, 894898.
Homocysteine Studies Collaboration (2002) Homocysteine and risk of ischemic heart disease and stroke: a meta-analysis. JAMA 288, 20152022.
Jacques, PF, Kalmbach, R, Bagley, PJ et al. (2002) The relationship between riboflavin and plasma total homocysteine in the Framingham Offspring cohort is influenced by folate status and the C677T transition in the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase gene. J Nutr 132, 283288.
Jones, ML & Nixon, PF (2002) Tetrahydrofolates are greatly stabilized by binding to bovine milk folate-binding protein. J Nutr 132, 26902694.
Lievers, KJA, Kluijtmans, LAJ, Boers, GHJ et al. (2002) Influence of a glutamate carboxypeptidase II (GCPII) polymorphism (1561C→T) on plasma homocysteine, folate and vitamin B12 levels and its relationship to cardiovascular disease risk. Atherosclerosis 164, 269273.
McKillop, D, Pentieva, K & Daly, D et al. (2002) The effect of different cooking methods on folate retention in various foods which are amongst the major contributors to folate intake in the UK diet. Br J Nutr 88, 681688.
Mckillop, D, Pentieva, K, Scott, JM et al. (2003) Protocol for the production of concentrated extracts of food folate for use in human bioavailability studies. J Agric Food Chem,
McKinley, MC, McNulty, H, McPartlin, J et al. (2001) Low-dose vitamin B-6 lowers fasting plasma homocysteine levels in healthy elderly persons who are folate and riboflavin replete. Am J Clin Nutr 73, 759764.
McNulty, H, McKinley, MC, Wilson, B et al. (2002) Impaired functioning of thermolabile methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase is dependent on riboflavin status: implications for riboflavin requirements. Am J Clin Nutr 76, 436441.
Medical Research Council Vitamin Study Research Group (1991) Prevention of neural tube defects: results of the Medical Research Council Vitamin Study. Lancet 338, 131137.
Mennen, LI, de Courcy, GP, Guilland, JC et al. (2002) Homocysteine, cardiovascular disease risk factors, and habitual diet in the French Supplementation with Antioxidant Vitamins and Minerals Study. Am J Clin Nutr 76, 12791289.
Mills, JL, McPartlin, JM, Kirke, PN et al. (1995) Homocysteine metabolism in pregnancies complicated by neural-tube defects. Lancet 345, 149151.
Moat, SJ, Ashfield-Watt, PA, Powers, HJ, Newcombe, RG & McDowell, IF (2003) Effect of riboflavin status on the homocysteine-lowering effect of folate in relation to the MTHFR (C677T) genotye. Clin Chem 49, 295302.
Neuhouser, ML, Beresford, SA, Hickok, DE & Monsen, ER (1998) Absorption of dietary and supplemental folate in women with prior pregnancies with neural tube defects and controls. J Am Coll Nutr 17, 625630.
Pentieva, K, Kidd, JA, McKillop, DJ, Strain, JJ, Scott, JM & McNulty, H (2002) Folate analysis of composite meals. Proc Nutr Soc 61, 92A.
Perry, J (1971) Folate analogues in normal mixed diets. Br J Haematol 21, 435441.
Pfeiffer, CM, Rogers, LM, Bailey, LB & Gregory, JF III (1997) Absorption of folate from fortified cereal-grain products and of supplemental folate consumed with or without food determined by using a dual-label stable-isotope protocol. Am J Clin Nutr 66, 13881397.
Pullin, CH, Ashfield-Watt, PA, Burr, ML et al. (2001) Optimization of dietary folate or low-dose folic acid supplements lower homocysteine but do not enhance endothelial function in healthy adults, irrespective of the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (C677T) genotype. J Am Coll Cardiol 38, 17991805.
Quinlivan, EP, McPartlin, J, McNulty, H et al. (2002) Importance of both folic acid and vitamin B12 in reduction of risk of vascular disease. Lancet 359, 227228.
Rimm, EB, Willett, WC, Hu, FB et al. (1998) Folate and vitamin B6 from diet and supplements in relation to risk of coronary heart disease among women. JAMA 279, 359364.
Sauberlich, HE, Kretsch, MJ, Skala, JH, Johnson, HL & Taylor, PC (1987) Folate requirement and metabolism in nonpregnant women. Am J Clin Nutr 46, 10161028.
Scott, JM & Weir, DG (1976) Folate composition, synthesis and function in natural materials. Clin Haematol 5, 547568.
Seyoum, E & Selhub, J (1998) Properties of food folates determined by stability and susceptibility to intestinal pteroylpolyglutamate hydrolase action. J Nutr 128, 19561960.
Shane, B (1995) Folate chemistry and metabolism. In Folate in Health and Disease. pp. 122. [Bailey, LB, editor]. New York, NY: Marcel Dekker.
Tamura, T & Stokstad, EL (1973) The availability of food folate in man. Br J Haematol 25, 513532.
van het Hof, KH, Tijburg, LB, Pietrzik, K & Weststrate, JA (1999) Influence of feeding different vegetables on plasma levels of carotenoids, folate and vitamin C. Effect of disruption of the vegetable matrix. Br J Nutr 82, 203212.
Van Lieshout, M, West, CE & Van Breemen, RB (2003) Isotopic tracer techniques for studying the bioavailability and bioefficacy of dietary carotenoids, particularly beta-carotene, in humans: a review. Am J Clin Nutr 77, 1228.
Van Oort, FV, Melse-Boonstra, A & Brouwer, IA (2003) Folic acid and reduction of plasma homocysteine concentrations in older adults: a dose-response study. Am J Clin Nutr 77, 13181323.
Vargas-Martinez, C, Ordovas, JM, Wilson, PW & Selhub, J (2002) The glutamate carboxypeptidase gene II (C>T) polymorphism does not affect folate status in the Framingham Offspring cohort. J Nutr 132, 11761179.
Verhoef, P, Pasman, WJ, Van Vliet, T, Urgert, R & Katan, MB (2002) Contribution of caffeine to the homocysteine-raising effect of coffee: a randomized controlled trial in humans. Am J Clin Nutr 76, 12441248.
Ward, M, McNulty, H, McPartlin, J, Strain, JJ, Weir, DG & Scott, JM (1997) Plasma homocysteine, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, is lowered by physiological doses of folic acid. QJM 90, 519524.
Ward, M, Strain, JJ, McPartlin, J, Scott, JM, McNulty, H et al. (2002) Plasma homocysteine is a reliable funtional indicator of folate status. Proc Nutr Soc 61,
Wei, MM, Bailey, LB, Toth, JP & Gregory, JF III (1996) Bioavailability for humans of deuterium-labeled monoglutamyl and polyglutamyl folates is affected by selected foods. J Nutr 126, 31003108.
Wei, MM & Gregory, JF III (1998) Organic Acids in Selected Foods Inhibit Intestinal Brush Border Pteroylpolyglutamate Hydrolase in Vitro: Potential Mechanism Affecting the Bioavailability of Dietary Polyglutamyl Folate. J Agric Food Chem 46, 211219.
Wright, AJA, Finglas, PM, Dainty, JR et al. (2003) Single oral doses of 13C forms of pteroylmonoglutamic acid and 5-formyltetrahydrofolic acid elicit difference sin short-term kinetics of labelled and unlabelled folates in plasma: potential problems in interpretation of folate bioavailability studies. Br J Nutr 90, 110.
Yamada, K, Chen, Z, Rozen, R & Matthews, RG (2001) Effects of common polymorphisms on the properties of recombinant human methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 98, 1485314858.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

British Journal of Nutrition
  • ISSN: 0007-1145
  • EISSN: 1475-2662
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed