Physiology of folate and vitamin B12 in health and disease

Nutr Rev. 2004 Jun;62(6 Pt 2):S3-12; discussion S13. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2004.tb00070.x.


Folate is a water-soluble B-vitamin and enzymatic cofactor that is necessary for the synthesis of purine and thymidine nucleotides and for the synthesis of methionine from homocysteine. Impairment of folate-mediated one-carbon metabolic pathways can result from B-vitamin deficiencies and/or single nucleotide polymorphisms, and increases risk for pathologies, including cancer and cardiovascular disease, and developmental anomalies including neural tube defects. Although several well validated metabolic and genomic biomarkers for folate deficiency exist, our understanding of the biochemical and genetic mechanisms whereby impaired folate metabolism increases risk for developmental anomalies and disease is limited, as are the mechanisms whereby elevated folate intake protects against these pathologies. Therefore, current initiatives to increase folate intakes in human populations to ameliorate developmental anomalies and prevent disease, while effective, lack predictive value with respect to unintended adverse outcomes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Folic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Folic Acid / metabolism*
  • Food, Fortified
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Neural Tube Defects / prevention & control
  • Vitamin B 12 / administration & dosage
  • Vitamin B 12 / metabolism*


  • Folic Acid
  • Vitamin B 12