H.eart & B.lood
Folic acid may reduce cardiovascular disease risk
Nov 26, 2006, 13:47

By Jimmy Downs

Taking a supplement of folic acid daily may help lower risk of cardiovascular disease such as heart attack and stroke, according to a new review article published in the November 25 issue of the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Homocysteine in the blood has been associated with the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. But it is uncertain whether homocysteine is a cause or simply a marker for cardiovascular disease. The review was meant to make it certain that the serum homocysteine is a cause.

For the review, David S Wald and colleagues of Centre for Environmental and Preventive Medicine, Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Barts and The London, and Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry went through two scores of cohort studies, genetic studies and trials.

The cohort studies and genetic studies led to similar results, that is, lower homocysteine levels are protective. The trials also indicated that lower homocysteine levels are protective against cardiovascular disease although the sizes of the trials were too small to be conclusive.

Since folic acid is known to reduce the level of homocysteine, the reviewers suggested intake of supplemented folic acid may reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. They concluded that sufficient evidence justifies action on reducing homocysteine concentrations.

In earlier studies, high concentrations of homocysteine are found in people with certain genes and those who use a diet with red meat. High intake of folic acid has been linked to reduced levels of homocysteine and or to a reduced risk of heart attack and stroke.

Experts have suggested that those who are at high risk of cardiovascular disease use folic acid supplements and reduce consumption of red meat starting at age 25 or so. In addition to folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 may also help break down homocysteine, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to early studies.


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