PURPOSE: National data on folate status are missing in Sweden, and regional data indicate folate insufficiency in up to more than 25% of the study populations. The objectives were to determine folate intake and status in the adult Swedish population as well as identifying dietary patterns associated with beneficial folate status.
METHODS: Folate intake was estimated using a web-based 4-d food record in adults aged 18-80 years (n = 1797). Folate status was measured as erythrocyte (n = 282) and plasma folate concentrations (n = 294). Factor analysis was used to derive a dietary pattern associated with a higher folate status.
RESULTS: Median folate intake was 246 µg/day (Q 1 = 196, Q 3 = 304, n = 1797) and for women of reproductive age 227 µg/day (Q 1 = 181, Q 3 = 282, n = 450). As dietary folate equivalents (DFE), median intake was 257 µg/day (Q 1 = 201, Q 3 = 323) and for women of reproductive age 239 µg/day (Q 1 = 185, Q 3 = 300). Low blood folate concentrations were found in 2% (erythrocyte concentrations <317 nmol/L) and 4% (plasma concentrations <6.8 nmol/L) of the participants, respectively. None of the women of reproductive age had erythrocyte folate concentrations associated with the lowest risk of neural tube defects. Dietary patterns associated with higher folate status were rich in vegetables, pulses and roots as well as cheese and alcoholic beverages, and low in meat.
CONCLUSIONS: Prevalence of low erythrocyte folate concentrations was low in this population, and estimated dietary intakes are well above average requirement. However, to obtain a folate status optimal for prevention of neural tube defects major dietary changes are required and folic acid supplements recommended prior to conception.