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Folate (Folic acid)


Also Known As: Folic Acid, Folate Serum, Vitamin B9, RBC Folate, Folacin

What Is A Folate Serum Test?

A folate serum test helps measure the amount of folate in your bloodstream. It is one of the many B vitamins your body requires for healthy functioning. Your body needs folate for normal growth and to produce white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. It is also crucial for the normal development of a fetus or baby.

During this test, the folate can be measured in the plasma or liquid portion of your blood. It indicates your current consumption of folate and folic acid in the diet. Folate is abundantly found in various foods such as citrus fruits, liver, dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, beans, and whole grains. However, folic acid is a little different; it is the synthetic form of folate and is primarily present in fortified foods like breakfast cereals and vitamin pills. Apart from blood serum, folate is also very easy to measure in red blood cells. 

The amount of folate present in red blood cells helps measure the level when the cell was produced in the body. Since this level is never affected by the amount of folic acid and folate in your diet, it is considered an accurate way to measure your body's actual folate levels.

What Is The Test Used For?

Folate is an integral part of the B complex of vitamins. It works with Vitamin C in the body to make new proteins and carry out the normal formation of RBCS, WBCS, and platelets. Some other functions include the repair of tissues or cells and DNA synthesis. However, it is important to note here that this nutrient is not produced in the body and must be supplied through the diet. The folate serum test measures the vitamin in the liquid portion of the blood, i.e., plasma or serum. Your doctor can also ask for this test to measure the following:

  • Dietary Deficiencies

These are quite uncommon in people as many drinks and foods are supplemented with folate. You have several years' worth of vitamin B9 stored in your body. Your dietary deficiencies will not usually cause symptoms until the stores of the nutrients are depleted.

  • Inadequate Absorption In The Body

Complete absorption occurs in the body in a series of multiple steps. If any disease or medical condition hinders these steps, vitamin B9 absorption is impaired.

  • More Need In The Body 

The increased need for folate in the body can be seen with many diseases and disorders. A demand for folate augments in the body when a woman is nursing or pregnant. It can also occur in early childhood in people with cancer or chronic hemolytic anemia.

Why And When Do You Need A Folate Serum Test?

A doctor, health care provider, or medical assistant can ask for a folate serum test:

  • To analyze the root causes of anemia. For this purpose, the folate test is often performed in conjunction with the Vitamin B12 level test, as low levels of either of them can make you anemic.
  • To analyze if you are experiencing malnutrition or any other issues regarding folate absorption in the body.
  • To check if the particular treatment plan for folate deficiency of Vitamin B12 deficiency is efficiently working or not.
  • To see if you have enough folate in the body to prevent congenital disabilities and carry on with the normal baby growth throughout the gestation period.
  • The test is also used to analyze the causes of nerve damage.
  • Conditions like cirrhosis and cystic fibrosis can also prevent your body from absorbing folate. The test results can be indicative of these chronic illnesses.

What Kind Of Sample Is Needed For The Test?

The folate serum test is just like any other standard blood test. The lab technician or nurse takes a blood sample, usually from a vein in your arm, using a small needle during the procedure. After inserting the needle, they collect a sufficient amount of blood in a vial or test tube then send it to the laboratory for further analysis.

Do You Need To Prepare For The Test?

Before taking the folate test, it is essential that you stop eating or drinking anything for at least 8-10 hours. You can consume water as usual, but consult your doctor regarding the consumption and their effects on the folate serum test results if you take some special medications. As far as the procedure is concerned, you don't have to prepare for anything special. However, try to wear loose clothes and short sleeves so the lab technician can easily identify the arm vein and collect blood samples without any trouble.

Are There Any Risks To This Test?

Since folate serum test is a standard procedure, there is almost little to no risk associated with it. You may experience slight bruising or pain at the puncture site, but the effects are short-term and disappear on their own real quick.

What Do The Test Results Mean?

When it comes to the normal folate range, every lab has its own predetermined levels. Your lab results will indicate the range any particular lab uses for the procedure. Normal ranges here are often used as a guide, but a doctor or practitioner can also use your age, gender, health, and other related factors to judge your status.

If the test results show higher than the normal folate levels, it can be due to the following:

  • You are consuming a diet that is rich in folate and folic acid. It happens when your intake of vitamin pills and folic acid tablets is too much. Consuming more folate than the body's requirement can cause serious health issues.
  • It also indicates vitamin B12 deficiency. Your body needs this vitamin to use folate, so if B12 is deficient, your body becomes unable to use folate, and high levels of it start to build up in the bloodstream.

If the test results show lower than the usual range, it indicates:

  • Problem with your diet
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • An eating disorder like anorexia nervosa
  • It also indicates your problems with absorbing or using up folate during liver diseases, vitamin C deficiency, sprue, celiac disease, and Crohn's disease

Related Tests: Intrinsic Factor Antibody, Parietal Cell Antibody, Complete Blood Count or CBC, Antinuclear Antibody or ANA, Rheumatoid Factor or RF Test

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