Folate status in women of childbearing age with obesity: a review

Nutr Res Rev. 2017 Dec;30(2):265-271. doi: 10.1017/S0954422417000142. Epub 2017 Jun 7.


Several studies have described a positive association between elevated BMI and birth defects risk. Data on plasma concentration of folate in pregnant women with obesity have shown values far below those recommended, regardless of diet, while folate levels should increase before pregnancy to reduce neural tube defects. We report a descriptive review of the most recent studies (from 2005 to 2015) to evaluate folate status through a population of women of childbearing age affected by obesity. The literature contains few studies, which present conflicting results regarding folate status in non-pregnant women of childbearing age affected by obesity, and it appears that there is a modification in folate metabolism, with a reduction in plasma folate levels and an increase in erythrocyte folate uptake. In conclusion, the folate status in women of childbearing age should be assessed by both plasma and erythrocyte levels to start a personalised and more adequate supplementation before conception. Further studies need to be conducted in a larger population, which take into account variables that can affect folate metabolism, such as dietary intake, lifestyle and genetic factors, oral contraceptives or other drug use, previous weight-loss programmes, or a history of bariatric surgery.

Keywords: LBW lean body weight; NTD neural tube defects; Birth defects; Childbearing age; Folate status; Women with obesity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Congenital Abnormalities / epidemiology
  • Congenital Abnormalities / etiology
  • Diet
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism
  • Female
  • Folic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Folic Acid / blood*
  • Folic Acid Deficiency / complications*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neural Tube Defects / complications
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Obesity / blood
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / blood*
  • Risk Factors


  • Folic Acid