Elevated plasma homocysteine (Hcy), dyslipidemia and hemorheological abnormalities all occur commonly in end-stage renal disease (ESRD) and are recognized risk factors for arteriosclerosis. To study the effect of folate supplementation on these factors we conducted a randomized controlled trial. Thirteen hemodialysis (HD) and 8 continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD) patients received either 5 mg folic acid daily or placebo for 3 months. After 1 and 3 months, fasting blood samples were taken for Hcy, lipid profile, blood and plasma viscosity, red blood cell (RBC) osmotic fragility, plasma fibrinogen concentration and in vivo platelet aggregability. At baseline, the CAPD patients had a higher mean plasma fibrinogen concentration than the HD patients and they also tended to have higher mean plasma viscosity. Folate-treated patients showed marked increases in RBC folate and an average decrease in plasma Hcy concentration of 33%. Mean total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations decreased significantly in the CAPD patients who took folate. Folate had no significant effect on hemorheology. In conclusion, folate supplements in ESRD reduce plasma Hcy concentrations and may improve lipid profiles. In our patients, hemorheological abnormalities were more marked in patients on CAPD than in those on HD and were not improved by folate supplementation.