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and nearly 1,700 µg/day for pregnant women. After the fortification of cereal grains with folate—which became mandatory for enriched grains in the United States as of January 1, 1998, and is now authorized in Canada—average intake of folate is expected to increase by about 80 to 100 µg/day for women and by more for men. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for adults is set at 1,000 µg/day of folate from fortified food or as a supplement, exclusive of food folate.


Folate is a generic term for this water-soluble B-complex vitamin, which functions in single-carbon transfer reactions and exists in many chemical forms (Wagner, 1996). Folic acid (pteroylmonoglutamic acid), which is the most oxidized and stable form of folate, occurs rarely in food but is the form used in vitamin supplements and in fortified food products. Folic acid consists of a p-aminobenzoic acid molecule linked at one end to a pteridine ring and at the other end to one glutamic acid molecule. Most naturally occurring folates, called food folate in this report, are pteroylpolyglutamates, which contain one to six additional glutamate molecules joined in a peptide linkage to the γ-carboxyl of glutamate.


The folate coenzymes are involved in numerous reactions that involve (1) deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) synthesis, which depends on a folate coenzyme for pyrimidine nucleotide biosynthesis (methylation of deoxyuridylic acid to thymidylic acid) and thus is required for normal cell division; (2) purine synthesis (formation of glycinamide ribonucleotide and 5-amino-4-imidazole carboxamide ribonucleotide); (3) generation of formate into the formate pool (and utilization of formate); and (4) amino acid interconversions, including the catabolism of histidine to glutamic acid, interconversion of serine and glycine, and conversion of homocysteine to methionine. Folate-mediated transfer of single-carbon units from serine provides a major source of substrate in single-carbon metabolism. The conversion of homocysteine to methionine serves as a major source of methionine for the synthesis of S-adenosyl-methionine, an important in vivo methylating agent (Wagner, 1996).

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