Juhana Tikkanen


Folate functions as an enzyme co-factor within the one-carbon metabolic pathway, providing key metabolites required for DNA synthesis and methylation. Hence, insufficient intake of folate can negatively affect health. As correct interpretation of folate status is dependent on a well-established reference interval, we set out to perform a new estimation following the restandardization of the Roche folate assay against the international folate standard.

Materials and methods

The folate reference interval was estimated using samples obtained from the Dutch population-based Lifelines cohort. The reference interval was estimated using two methods: a nonparametric estimation combined with bootstrap resampling and by fitting the data to a gamma distribution. The lower reference limit was verified in a patient cohort by combined measurement of folate and homocysteine.


Dependent on the method used for estimation and in- or exclusion of individuals younger than 21 years of age, the lower reference limit ranged from 6.8 to 7.3 nmol/L and the upper reference limit ranged from 26 to 38.5 nmol/L. Applying a lower reference limit of 7.3 nmol/L resulted in the following percentage of folate deficiencies over a period of 12 months: general practitioner 15.5% (IQR 4.0%), general hospital 12.8% (IQR 5.3%), academic hospital 9.6% (IQR 4.3%).


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