We determined the intra-individual biological variability of plasma homocysteine in 20 healthy subjects. The intra-individual coefficient of variation was relatively low (8.3%), indicating that a single measurement can be used to characterize the average homocysteine concentration. A population study measuring plasma homocysteine and serum folate levels was conducted on serum samples collected from 1109 randomly selected, fasting adults with a wide age range. We determined age- and gender-specific central 0.95 intervals and found that subjects in the highest quartile of serum folate had significantly lower (P = 0.0001) mean plasma homocysteine concentrations than did those in the lowest quartile of folate values. An 'ideal' homocysteine reference range, based on targeting these subjects who are likely to be folate replete, is preferable to the population-based range using the central 0.95 interval.