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Blood folate and vitamin B12: United States, 1988-94.

OBJECTIVES: This report presents national estimates of serum and red blood cell (RBC) folate and serum vitamin B12 distributions for persons 4 years and over, by sociodemographic variables.

METHODS: The third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) (1988-94), provides information on the health and nutritional status of the civilian noninstitutionalized U.S. population. The analytic sample included 23,378 participants with serum folate data, 23,082 with RBC folate data, and 11,851 with serum vitamin B12 data.

RESULTS: The mean serum and RBC folate concentrations are 7.2 and 196 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL), respectively, and the mean serum vitamin B12 concentration is 518 picograms per milliliter (pg/mL). Non-Hispanic white people have higher mean serum and RBC folate concentrations than non-Hispanic black or Mexican American people. Serum vitamin B12 concentrations are lowest for older adults, and non-Hispanic black people have higher serum B12 concentrations than non-Hispanic white individuals. Only approximately 3 percent of the population has a serum B12 concentration less than 200 pg/mL.

CONCLUSIONS: Inadequate folate status may be more prevalent among non-Hispanic black and Mexican American people. Data also suggest a modest prevalence of low serum B12 concentrations. Future assessments of folate and vitamin B12 status will be important to evaluate the impact of a recently enacted fortification policy.

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