What is Serum Folate?

Laura M. Sands
Laura M. Sands
A medical professional may draw a patient's blood to determine serum folate levels.
A medical professional may draw a patient's blood to determine serum folate levels.

Serum folate refers to how much folate is in a person’s blood serum. Testing for folate is done by a physician or other qualified healthcare practitioner and involves drawing blood to find out how much of this essential vitamin is present in the serum, as well as how much of it is present in the red blood cells. Measurements specifically give medical professionals an indication of how much folate was recently introduced to the body, whereas folate found and measured in the red blood cells tells them how much folate has been stored in the body for long-term use.

Broccoli contains folate.
Broccoli contains folate.

Measuring serum folate levels is important, as doing so helps determine whether a person has an elevated levels or whether a person is suffering from a deficiency. Both of these conditions are potentially hazardous to a person’s health and, therefore, should be monitored, particularly if a person is taking folate supplements. While most people’s levels are fine when the vitamin is gained from natural sources, individuals who supplement with folic acid vitamins are more likely to have elevated amounts, which can mask a vitamin B12 deficiency. Individuals with a past history of alcohol abuse or who are anemic are more likely to have a deficiency.

Folate may be found in eggs.
Folate may be found in eggs.

Folate is a B vitamin naturally found in foods like broccoli, turnip greens, eggs, yeast, dried beans, and citrus fruits. When a synthetic form is used as a vitamin supplement or to fortify foods, such as bread and cereal, it is referred to as folic acid. Folate is an ingredient needed in DNA and RNA to make new cells and to stop existing cells from mutating into diseases like cancer, and it also helps maintain proper homocysteine levels, which help keep amino acids at optimal levels within the body.

Citrus fruits contain folate.
Citrus fruits contain folate.

After testing a person’s serum folate levels, if a medical professional discovers a deficiency, a person will be advised to take folic acid supplements. Deficiency has an adverse affect on the body and can impede a child’s growth, or cause anemia, heart palpitations, or heart disease in adults. When levels are too high, however, it can trigger seizures in people with epilepsy. Elevated folate levels may also mask the symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency, which include neuropathy, dementia, and megaloblastic anemia. When these symptoms are hidden and there is a delay in treating them, which may lead to long-term damage.

Discussion Comments

WiseWeezy

It's so important that people know about things like this. How many people have heart palpitations and think they're having a heart attack, when they really just have a folate deficiency?

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    • A medical professional may draw a patient's blood to determine serum folate levels.
      By: TRITOOTH
      A medical professional may draw a patient's blood to determine serum folate levels.
    • Broccoli contains folate.
      By: Nitr
      Broccoli contains folate.
    • Folate may be found in eggs.
      By: andriigorulko
      Folate may be found in eggs.
    • Citrus fruits contain folate.
      By: Malyshchyts Viktar
      Citrus fruits contain folate.
    • A folate deficiency may cause heart palpitations in adults.
      By: Shakzu
      A folate deficiency may cause heart palpitations in adults.
    • Leafy green vegetables contain significant amounts of folate.
      By: NataliTerr
      Leafy green vegetables contain significant amounts of folate.
    • Legumes contain folate.
      By: Stefano Neri
      Legumes contain folate.
    • Curly endive, which contains folate.
      By: ExQuisine
      Curly endive, which contains folate.
    • Spinach has high levels of folate, a crucial B-complex vitamin that is present in red blood cells.
      By: travelbook
      Spinach has high levels of folate, a crucial B-complex vitamin that is present in red blood cells.