B Vitamins May Not Cut Heart Risks
In High-Risk Patients Taking B Vitamin Supplements, Heart Risks Remain
April 13, 2006 -- Supplements of three B vitamins -- folic acid, vitamin B-6, and vitamin B-12 -- don't appear to cut heart risks for high-risk patients.
That finding comes from two new studies, both published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
The studies' details differed, but their strategy was similar: Take a big group of people at high risk of heart problems, give some of them B vitamins and others no B vitamin supplements, and see what happens over the next few years.
In both studies, patients taking B vitamins had a drop in their blood level of homocysteine, an amino acid linked to heart disease. But lower homocysteine levels didn't cut deaths from heart attack, stroke, or other heart-related problems, the studies show.
HOPE 2 Study
The first study was the Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation (HOPE) 2 study. The HOPE 2 researchers included Eva Lonn, MD, of Hamilton General Hospital in Canada's Hamilton, Ontario.
Lonn and colleagues studied 5,522 patients aged 55 and older who had diabetes or vascular disease (disease that affects the blood vessels). The researchers randomly assigned patients to one of two daily treatments:
- Mix of 2.5 milligrams of folic acid, 50 milligrams of vitamin B, 1 milligram of vitamin B-12
- Sham pill containing no B vitamins (placebo)
Some patients lived in the U.S. and Canada, where enriched grain products are fortified with folic acid. Others lived in Brazil, western Europe, and Slovakia, where folic acid fortification isn't mandatory.
Over an average of five years, blood levels of homocysteine fell substantially in the vitamin group and rose in the placebo group. But both groups had a similar number of patients who died of heart attack, other heart problems, or stroke.
Those deaths included 519 patients in the vitamin group (nearly 19%) and 547 in the placebo group (nearly 20%).