Abstract

The addition of folic acid to the US food supply, along with the critical role of folate in certain health outcomes, has intensified worldwide interest in the bioavailability of folate. Bioavailability is a function of absorptive and postabsorptive processes, which in turn are influenced by diet, individuality, and complex diet-host interactions. As such, it is unlikely that a single bioavailability figure will accurately reflect food folate bioavailability from every diet for every person. Although there is broad agreement that naturally occurring food folate is not as bioavailable as folic acid, questions remain as to the extent of these differences, particularly within the context of a whole diet. This article 1) summarizes and integrates bioavailability estimates derived from studies that use whole-diet approaches; 2) highlights the influences of genetics, ethnicity-race, and sex as postabsorptive bioavailability modifiers; and 3) discusses the adequacy of the US folate Recommended Dietary Allowance in achieving folate sufficiency in select subpopulations.

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