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Addressing optimal folate and related B-vitamin status through the lifecycle: health impacts and challenges

  • Helene McNulty (a1), Mary Ward (a1), Leane Hoey (a1), Catherine F. Hughes (a1) and Kristina Pentieva (a1)...


The functional effects of folate within C1 metabolism involve interrelationships with vitamin B12, vitamin B6 and riboflavin, and related gene–nutrient interactions. These B vitamins have important roles throughout life, from pregnancy, through childhood, to middle and older age. Achieving optimal nutritional status for preventing folate-related disease is challenging, however, primarily as a result of the poor stability and incomplete bioavailability of folate from natural food sources when compared with the synthetic vitamin form, folic acid. Thus, in European countries, measures to prevent neural tube defects (NTD) have been largely ineffective because of the generally poor compliance of women with folic acid supplementation as recommended before and in early pregnancy. In contrast, countries worldwide with mandatory folic acid fortification policies have experienced marked reductions in NTD. Low vitamin B12 status is associated with increased risk of cognitive dysfunction, CVD and osteoporosis. Achieving optimal B12 status can be problematic for older people, however, primarily owing to food-bound B12 malabsorption which leads to sub-clinical deficiency even with high dietary B12 intakes. Optimising B-vitamin intake may be particularly important for sub-populations with impaired folate metabolism owing to genetic characteristics, most notably the 677C→T variant in the gene encoding the enzyme methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR). This common folate polymorphism is linked with several adverse health outcomes, including stroke, however, recent evidence has identified its novel interaction with riboflavin (the MTHFR cofactor) in relation to blood pressure and risk of developing hypertension. This review addresses why and how the optimal status of folate-related B vitamins should be achieved through the lifecycle.


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*Corresponding author: Helene McNulty, email


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Addressing optimal folate and related B-vitamin status through the lifecycle: health impacts and challenges

  • Helene McNulty (a1), Mary Ward (a1), Leane Hoey (a1), Catherine F. Hughes (a1) and Kristina Pentieva (a1)...


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