Folic Acid and Vitamin B-12 May Help Prevent Heart Disease
WebMD News Archive
Dec. 11, 2000 -- High levels of the amino acid homocysteine
have been shown to cause harm by increasing clot formation in the blood vessels
in the heart. Recent evidence suggests that vitamins B-12 and folic acid may
help prevent heart disease by lowering the body's levels of homocysteine. But
until clinical trials are completed in about four years, the jury is still out
about not only the damaging effects of the amino acid but also the vitamins'
potential benefit in preventing heart disease.
High levels of the harmful amino acid homocysteine may account
for up to 10% of deaths from heart disease in men and 6% in women. But
"may" is the operative word, and until the verdict is in, the authors
of a study published in this week's Archives of Internal Medicine say
using folic acid and vitamin B-12 to treat middle-aged people with high levels
of homocysteine "may be a prudent option."
The researchers, from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor,
calculated whether it makes more sense to give multivitamins to everyone, or
just to people with elevated homocysteine levels. They looked at patients
taking 400 mcg of folic acid and 500 mcg of vitamin B-12 daily, and found that
it would be most cost-effective if the supplements go to those whose blood
tests show elevated levels of homocysteine.
Of course, those who are not necessarily "at-risk" can
also benefit from the vitamins. Study author Brahmajee Nallamothu, MD, tells
WebMD consumers should try to get enough folic acid and vitamin B-12 through
their diets. Nallamothu is a fellow in the division of cardiovascular diseases
at the University of Michigan Health System.
Clinical nutrition consultant Linda Rodriguez says the best
food sources of folic acid are citrus fruits, tomatoes, vegetables, whole grain
and fortified grain products, beans and lentils. Major sources of B-12 include
meat, poultry, fish and dairy products. Rodriguez also recommends vitamin B-6,
B-12 and folic acid supplements because of their probable effect on
homocysteine levels and cardiac disease. Rodriguez is in private practice in