Detect folate deficiency; monitor therapy with folate; evaluate megaloblastic and macrocytic anemia; evaluate alcoholic patients and those with prior jejunoileal bypass for morbid obesity or those with intestinal blind-loop syndrome.
Folates are compounds of pteroylglutamic acid (PGA) that function as coenzymes in metabolic reactions involving the transfer of single-carbon units from a donor to a recipient compound. Folate, with vitamin B12, is essential for DNA synthesis, which is required for normal red blood cell maturation.2 Humans obtain folate from dietary sources including fruits, green and leafy vegetables, yeast, and organ meats.3 Folate is absorbed through the small intestine and stored in the liver.
Low folate intake, malabsorption as a result of gastrointestinal diseases, pregnancy, and drugs such as phenytoin are causes of folate deficiency.4 Folate deficiency is also associated with chronic alcoholism.5 Folate and vitamin B12 deficiency impair DNA synthesis, causing macrocytic anemias. These anemias are characterized by abnormal maturation of red blood cell precursors in the bone marrow, the presence of megaloblasts, and decreased red blood cell survival.2