The vitamin folate is recognized as beneficial health-wise in the prevention of neural tube defects, anemia, cardiovascular diseases, poor cognitive performance, and some forms of cancer. However, suboptimal dietary folate intake has been reported in a number of countries. Several national health authorities have therefore introduced mandatory food fortification with synthetic folic acid, which is considered a convenient fortificant, being cost-efficient in production, more stable than natural food folate, and superior in terms of bioavailability and bioefficacy. Other countries have decided against fortification due to the ambiguous role of synthetic folic acid regarding promotion of subclinical cancers and other adverse health effects. This paper reviews recent studies on folate bioavailability after intervention with folate from food. Our conclusions were that limited folate bioavailability data are available for vegetables, fruits, cereal products, and fortified foods, and that it is difficult to evaluate the bioavailability of food folate or whether intervention with food folate improves folate status. We recommend revising the classical approach of using folic acid as a reference dose for estimating the plasma kinetics and relative bioavailability of food folate.
Keywords: folate; folic acid; human bioavailability; intervention trials; post-dose plasma kinetics.