Folate, homocysteine and the ovarian cycle among healthy regularly menstruating women

Kara A. Michels, Jean Wactawski-Wende, James L. Mills, Karen C. Schliep, Audrey J. Gaskins, Edwina H. Yeung, Keewan Kim, Torie C. Plowden, Lindsey A. Sjaarda, Ellen N. Chaljub, Sunni L. Mumford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


STUDY QUESTION How are concentrations of plasma homocysteine and serum folate associated with reproductive hormones and anovulation in regularly menstruating women? SUMMARY ANSWER Higher homocysteine was associated with sporadic anovulation and hormonal changes that may be indicative of impaired ovulatory function, but higher serum folate was associated only with higher luteal phase progesterone. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY Higher folate levels as well as some variants in genes relevant to one-carbon metabolism, are associated with improved reproductive outcomes and responses to fertility treatment, but only a few small studies have explored the relationship between markers of one-carbon metabolism and menstrual cycle characteristics. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION The BioCycle Study (2005-2007) is a prospective, longitudinal cohort of 259 regularly menstruating women not using hormonal contraceptives or dietary supplements who were followed for up to two menstrual cycles. PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS Serum folate and reproductive hormones were measured up to eight times per cycle and plasma homocysteine up to three times. Linear mixed models were used to estimate associations between serum folate or plasma homocysteine and log-transformed reproductive hormone levels while accounting for multiple observations and cycles per woman. Generalized estimating equations were used to examine risk of sporadic anovulation. All models were adjusted for age, race, body mass index, cigarette and alcohol use, and energy and fiber intake. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE Higher plasma homocysteine concentrations were associated with lower total estradiol across the cycle (adjusted percent change per unit increase in homocysteine [aPC] -2.3%, 95% CI: -4.2, -0.03), higher follicle stimulating hormone around the time of expected ovulation (aPC 2.4%, 95% CI: 0.2, 4.7) and lower luteal phase progesterone (aPC -6.5%, 95% CI: -11.1, -1.8). Higher serum folate concentrations were associated with higher luteal phase progesterone (aPC per unit increase in folate 1.0%, 95% CI: 0.4, 1.6). Higher homocysteine concentrations at expected ovulation were associated with a 33% increased risk of sporadic anovulation. We observed no risk associated with decreased folate concentrations, but a higher ratio of folate to homocysteine at ovulation was associated with a 10% decreased risk of anovulation. LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION Our results are generalizable to healthy women with adequate serum folate levels. The independent influence of homocysteine should be confirmed in larger cohorts and among women with folate deficiency or increased risks of anovulation. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS If these findings are confirmed, it is possible that lowering homocysteine with B-vitamins through diet or supplementation could improve ovulatory function in some women. Study FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S) This work was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health (Contract numbers: HHSN275200403394C, HHSN275201100002I and Task one HHSN27500001). None of the authors has any conflicts of interest to disclose.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1743-1750
Number of pages8
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • anovulation
  • folate
  • folic acid
  • homocysteine
  • longitudinal studies
  • menstrual cycle
  • prospective studies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


Dive into the research topics of 'Folate, homocysteine and the ovarian cycle among healthy regularly menstruating women'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this