Metabolism: clinical and experimental

Concentrations of unmetabolized folic acid and primary folate forms in plasma after folic acid treatment in older adults.

PMID 20727555


Folate deficiency can cause age-related disease. Folic acid (FA) has been used in studies aiming at disease prevention. Recently, unmetabolized FA in plasma raised public health concerns; but numerous studies used FA for disease prevention. Concentrations of the folate forms FA, 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF), and tetrahydrofolate (THF) were measured before and after 3-week placebo or FA 5 mg, vitamin B6 40 mg, and cyanocobalamin 2 mg per day administrated to 74 older adults (median age, 82 years). Concentrations of 5-MTHF and total homocysteine (tHcy) (r = -0.392) and S-adenosylmethionine (r = 0.329) were correlated at baseline. Twenty-six percent of the elderly subjects had unmetabolized FA in plasma at the start, and concentrations of FA were increased after 3 weeks of FA treatment (median FA = 0.08 nmol/L at baseline and 15.3 nmol/L at the end of the treatment in the vitamin group). Folic acid caused a 10- and a 5-fold increase in 5-MTHF and THF, respectively, and lowered tHcy (median tHcy = 17.2 μmol/L at baseline vs 9.0 μmol/L after treatment). Concentrations of unmetabolized FA were positively related to those of 5-MTHF and THF. People showed wide variations in folate forms at baseline, but these were reduced after FA treatment. Folic acid given to older adults is mostly converted to THF and 5-MTHF and lowered concentrations of tHcy, but caused a substantial increase in unmetabolized FA in the plasma.

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Tetrahydrofolic acid, ≥65% (when packaged), powder