Diet High in Folate and Vitamin B-12 May Reduce Risk of Heart Disease
WebMD News Archive
Dec. 6, 1999 (Baltimore) -- One of the many suspected risk factors for the
development of heart disease appears to be high levels of a chemical called
homocysteine in the blood. "There is evidence now that the risk from
homocysteine is like that for cholesterol," says Dr. F. Xavier Pi-Sunyer,
MD, professor of medicine at Columbia University, in an interview with WebMD.
"The higher the homocysteine, the higher the risk."
Dr. Pi-Sunyer and colleagues report in the November issue of the American
Journal of Clinical Nutrition that people who consume higher amounts of
folate and vitamin B-12 see a significant reduction in the level of
homocysteine in their blood. "We estimate that for some of these patients
their risk for heart disease was reduced by 60-80%," he says.
The study looked at almost 500 people who had diabetes, high blood pressure,
or high levels of cholesterol in their blood, or a combination. All of them
would be expected to be at increased risk for heart disease based on these
other conditions. Study participants were selected to receive either a prepared
diet provided to them, or to make their own selections based on guidelines from
the American Dietetic and American Diabetes Associations diets.
"I think one of the most significant things about this study is we were
trying to give people a diet that would cover all their requirements for their
particular health problem as well as making sure they got the vitamins and
minerals," says Pi-Sunyer. "The current recommendation for folate is
400 micrograms per day. In this study some patients were receiving over 600
micrograms per day."
Those people who consumed the prepared diet and had the highest homocysteine
levels prior to the start of the study saw the biggest reduction in their
levels. Dr. Pi-Sunyer says that's because the prepared diet was supplemented
with folate and vitamin B-12.
Pi-Sunyer says that getting additional folate is possible through increased
consumption of foods that are high in the micronutrient, or by taking a
supplement. Foods high in folate include liver, kidney, nuts, spinach, oranges,
and bananas. Many prepared foods are also being supplemented with folate
because of its association with a reduction of a common birth defect.
Dr. Roger Blumenthal, assistant professor of cardiology at Johns Hopkins
University in Baltimore, commented on the study for WebMD. He says, "We
still haven't proven that lowering homocysteine levels is beneficial for
reducing the risk of cardiovascular [heart] disease, but this study supports
the idea that consuming a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables has
multiple benefits, and perhaps adding a multivitamin to that is a good