Description: A B12 and Folate test measures the levels of B12 and folic acid in the blood. These results can be used to determine a B12 and/or folate deficiency and evaluate a person's nutritional status. Anemia and Neuropathy can also be evaluated using the results from this test.
Also Known As: Vitamin B12 and Folate test, Cobalamin and Folic Acid Test, Vitamin B12 and Vitamin B9 Test, Vitamin B12 Test, Vitamin B9 Test, Cobalamin Test, Folic Acid Test, Folate Test
Collection Method: Blood Draw
Specimen Type: Serum
Test Preparation: No preparation required
Average Processing Time: 1 to 2 days
When is Vitamin B12 and Folate panel test ordered?
When a complete blood count and/or blood smear, performed as part of a health checkup or anemia evaluation, reveal a low red blood cell count with the presence of big RBCs, B12 and folate levels may be ordered. A high mean corpuscular volume, in particular, implies that the RBCs are enlarged.
When a person exhibits the following signs and symptoms of a deficit, testing for B12 and folate levels may be necessary.
- Muscle weakness, fatigue
- Appetite loss.
- Skin that is pale
- Irregular heartbeats, rapid heart rate
- Breathing problems
- Tongue and mouth ache
- In the feet, hands, arms, and legs, there is tingling, numbness, and/or burning
- Confusion or obliviousness
When a person is at risk of deficiency, such as those with a history of malnutrition or a condition associated to malabsorption, B12 and folate testing may be ordered.
Individuals being treated for malnutrition or a B12 or folate deficit may have these tests done on a frequent basis to see how effective their treatments are. This could be part of a long-term therapy plan for people who have a disease that causes chronic deficiency.
What does a Vitamin B12 and Folate panel blood test check for?
The B complex of vitamins includes vitamins including vitamin B12 and folate. They are required for the creation of normal red blood cells, tissue and cell repair, and the synthesis of DNA, the genetic material in cells. Both are nutrients that the body cannot make and must be obtained from the diet.
Vitamin B12 and folate tests diagnose vitamin deficiencies by measuring vitamin levels in the liquid section of the blood. The amount of folate in red blood cells is sometimes tested as well.
Folate is a naturally occurring form of the vitamin, whereas folic acid is a supplement that can be added to foods and beverages. Leafy green vegetables, dry beans and peas, citrus fruits, yeast, and liver all contain it. Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, can be found in animal-based foods such red meat, fish, poultry, milk, yogurt, and eggs. Fortified cereals, breads, and other grain products have become key sources of B12 and folate in recent years.
A lack of B12 or folate can cause macrocytic anemia, a condition in which red blood cells are bigger than normal. Megaloblastic anemia is a kind of macrocytic anemia marked by the generation of fewer but larger RBCs known as macrocytes, as well as cellular abnormalities in the bone marrow. Reduced white blood cell and platelet counts are two more test results linked to megaloblastic anemia.
B12 is also necessary for nerve function, and a lack of it can induce neuropathy, which causes tingling and numbness in the hands and feet of those who are affected.
Folate is required for cell division, which occurs in the developing fetus. In a growing fetus, a lack of folate during early pregnancy can raise the chance of neural tube abnormalities such spina bifida.
B12 and folate deficiency is most commonly caused by not getting enough of the vitamins through diet or supplements, poor absorption, or increased requirement, as observed during pregnancy:
- Dietary deficiencies are uncommon in the United States since many meals and beverages are fortified with vitamins that the body stores. Adults normally have many years' worth of vitamin B12 and around three months' worth of folate stored in their liver. Dietary deficiencies normally do not manifest symptoms until the body's vitamin supplies have been exhausted. Vegans and their breast-fed infants can suffer from B12 deficiency.
- Inadequate absorption—the absorption of vitamin B12 is a multi-step process. B12 is normally released from food by stomach acid and then bound to intrinsic factor, a protein produced by parietal cells in the stomach, in the small intestine. After being absorbed by the small intestine and bound by carrier proteins, the B12-IF complex reaches the blood. B12 absorption is hampered if any of these processes are disrupted by a disease or condition.
- Increased demand—this can occur as a result of a range of diseases and disorders. When a woman is pregnant or nursing, in early childhood, with malignancies, or with chronic hemolytic anemias, there is an increased demand for folate.
Lab tests often ordered with a Vitamin B12 and Folate panel test:
- Complete Blood Count
- Methylmalonic Acid
- Vitamin B1
- Vitamin B3
- Vitamin B5
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B7
- Intrinsic Factor Antibody
- Parietal Cell Antibody
- Reticulocyte Count
Conditions where a Vitamin B12 and Folate panel test is recommended:
- Neural Tube Defects
- Vitamin B12 and Folate Deficiencies
- Celiac Disease
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
How does my health care provider use a Vitamin B12 and Folate panel test?
Separate tests for vitamin B12 and folate are frequently used in conjunction to detect deficiencies and to aid in the diagnosis of anemias such as pernicious anemia, an inflammatory condition that inhibits B12 absorption.
B12 and folate are two vitamins that the body cannot generate and must be obtained from the diet. They're needed for red blood cell creation, tissue and cell repair, and DNA synthesis, which is the genetic material in cells. B12 is required for normal nerve function.
B12 and folate tests can also be used to assess someone who is experiencing mental or behavioral changes, especially in the elderly. A B12 test can be ordered with or without folate, as well as with other screening laboratory tests like a complete blood count, comprehensive metabolic panel, antinuclear antibody, C-reactive protein, and rheumatoid factor, to help determine why a person is exhibiting signs and symptoms of a nerve disorder.
B12 and folate tests can also be performed in conjunction with a variety of other tests to assess a person's overall health and nutritional status if they have signs and symptoms of substantial malnutrition or dietary malabsorption. People with alcoholism, liver disease, stomach cancer, or malabsorption diseases including celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, or cystic fibrosis may fall into this category.
Testing may be performed to assess the success of treatment in patients with known B12 and folate deficits. This is especially true for people who cannot absorb B12 and/or folate effectively and must be treated for the rest of their lives.
Folate levels in the blood's liquid part might fluctuate depending on a person's recent diet. Because red blood cells contain 95 percent of circulating folate, a test to evaluate folate levels inside RBCs could be employed instead of or in addition to the serum test. Some doctors believe that the RBC folate test is a better predictor of long-term folate status and is more clinically useful than serum folate, however there is no consensus on this.
Homocysteine and methylmalonic acid are two more laboratory tests that can be used to detect B12 and folate deficits. In B12 deficiency, both homocysteine and MMA are high, whereas in folate deficit, only homocysteine, not MMA, is elevated. This distinction is critical because treating anemia with folate treats the anemia but not the brain damage, which may be irreparable.
What do my Vitamin B12 and Folate test results mean?
Normal B12 and folate levels may indicate that a person does not suffer from a deficiency and that the signs and symptoms are caused by something else. Normal levels, on the other hand, may indicate that a person's stored B12 and/or folate has not yet been depleted.
A health practitioner may request a methylmalonic acid test as an early sign of B12 insufficiency if a B12 level is normal but a deficiency is still suspected.
A low B12 and/or folate level in a person with signs and symptoms implies a deficiency, although it does not always indicate the severity of the anemia or related neuropathy. Additional tests are frequently performed to determine the source of the deficit. Low B12 or folate levels can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
Dietary folate or B12 deficiency is uncommon in the United States. It can be evident in people who are malnourished in general and vegans who do not eat any animal products. Folate deficiency has become extremely rare since the development of fortified cereals, breads, and other grain products.
Both B12 and folate deficits can be caused by diseases that prevent them from being absorbed in the small intestine. These may include the following:
- Pernicious anemia.
- Celiac disease
- Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
- Bacterial overgrowth or the presence of parasites in the intestines, such as tapeworms
- Long-term usage of antacids or H2 proton pump inhibitors reduces stomach acid production.
- Absorption can be considerably reduced by surgery that removes part of the stomach or the intestines, such as gastric bypass.
- Insufficiency of the pancreas
- Chronic alcoholism or heavy drinking
- Some treatments, such as omeprazole, metformin, methotrexate, and/or anti-seizure medications like phenytoin.
- Increased requirement for healthy fetal development, all pregnant women require an increased amount of folate and are advised to consume 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. People who have cancer that has spread or who have chronic hemolytic anemia require more folate.
If a person is taking supplements to treat a B12 or folate deficiency, normal or higher findings indicate that the treatment is working.
High amounts of B12 are uncommon, and they aren't routinely evaluated clinically. If a person has a condition such chronic myeloproliferative neoplasm, diabetes, heart failure, obesity, AIDS, or severe liver disease, their vitamin B12 level may be elevated. High B12 levels can also be caused by using estrogens, vitamin C, or vitamin A.
We advise having your results reviewed by a licensed medical healthcare professional for proper interpretation of your results.