tion of chronic disease or developmental abnormalities is covered in detail in a later section.
Because folate is taken up only by the developing erythrocyte in the bone marrow and not by the circulating mature erythrocyte during its 120-day lifespan, erythrocyte folate concentration is an indicator of long-term status. Erythrocyte folate concentration was shown to be related to tissue stores by its correlation, although weak, with liver folate concentration determined by biopsy in the same individual in a study of 45 subjects (Wu et al., 1975).
Erythrocyte folate concentration does not reflect recent or transient changes in dietary folate intake. A value of 305 nmol/L (140 ng/mL) of folate was chosen as the cutoff point for adequate folate status on the basis of the following experiments: On a diet containing only 5 µg/day of folate, the appearance of hypersegmented neutrophils in the peripheral blood of one subject coincided with the approximate time when the erythrocyte folate concentration decreased to less than 305 nmol/L (140 ng/mL) (Herbert, 1962a). On a diet containing less than 20 µg/day of folate, the appearance of hypersegmented neutrophils in two subjects preceded the reduction in erythrocyte folate to concentrations below 305 nmol/L (140 ng/mL) by about 2 weeks (Eichner et al., 1971). In a group of 40 patients with megaloblastic anemia caused by folate deficiency, 100 percent had erythrocyte folate values less than 305 nmol/L (140 ng/mL); values were the lowest in the most anemic subjects and the highest mean lobe counts occurred in the subjects with the lowest erythrocyte folate concentrations (Hoffbrand et al., 1966). All 238 pregnant women with erythrocyte folate concentrations below 327 nmol/L (150 ng/mL) were found to have megaloblastic marrow (Varadi et al., 1966). Eight subjects with erythrocyte folate of less than 305 nmol/L (140 ng/mL) had eight- to ninefold greater incorporation of uracil into DNA than did 14 control subjects and had a threefold increase in frequency of cellular micronuclei (a measure of DNA and chromosome damage); folate supplementation reduced the abnormalities (Blount et al., 1997).
In this report, plasma homocysteine concentration refers to total homocysteine concentration. Plasma homocysteine concentration increases when inadequate quantities of folate are available to do-