Folate is an important nutrient for making normal red blood cells and for repairing cells and nerve tissue in the body. Along with vitamin B12, it is tested to check whether you have enough of these vitamins in your blood.
What is being tested?
Folate is a nutrient that is very similar to folic acid, which is also known as vitamin B9.
Folate is usually found in food like green vegetables, fruit, dry beans and peas and many breakfast cereals. Because it is so important in normal growth, especially in developing babies, folic acid is added to bread, flour and cereals.
Why would I need this test?
There are many reasons you might need a folate test:
- Low levels of folate can cause red blood cells to develop abnormally or not produce enough (anaemia).
- The test can be used to investigate why you have nerve damage.
- Some conditions (such as Crohn’s disease or cystic fibrosis) prevent the body from absorbing folate into your body.
- Some people who are confused and disorientated have a folate deficiency.
- Folate is vital for a baby’s normal brain and spinal cord development, so many women are checked for folate deficiency before falling pregnant.
You doctor might be monitoring treatment for low folate or low vitamin B12.
How to prepare for this test
You might be asked to fast for 6 to 8 hours before the blood test is taken.
Understanding your results
There are many possible reasons for a low folate level:
- You might not be eating enough folate-containing foods.
- Your body might not be absorbing folate from food.
- Your body might be losing folate due to taking medication, or a liver or kidney condition.
- You might need more folate than usual, such as if you’re pregnant.
You should discuss the results with your doctor to see what they mean in your particular situation.
About folate testing
Lab Tests Online has more information about folate testing.
About blood testing
Visit healthdirect‘s ‘Guide to blood testing’ to learn more about blood tests in general with information about:
- what to consider before having a blood test
- what happens during a blood test
- results accuracy
- blood tests cost
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: August 2018