B Vitamins May Cut Stroke Risk
Study Shows High Doses May Reduce Incidence of Stroke in People at High Risk
Feb. 20, 2009 (San Diego) -- High doses of B vitamins may help prevent
stroke in high-risk people, new research suggests.
The finding comes from the Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation 2 trial of
more than 5,500 men and women with heart disease. Participants were assigned to
a daily regimen of either B vitamins or placebo pills for five years.
Results showed that people who took the vitamins were 25% less likely to
suffer a stroke over the study period than those who took placebo.
People younger than 70, those not taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs
or blood thinners, and those living in regions without folic acid food
fortification appeared to gain the greatest benefit.
But taking vitamins did not have any effect on the severity of stroke or any
associated disabilities, says researcher Gustavo Saposnik, MD, of the
University of Toronto.
He presented the findings at the International Stroke Conference 2009.
B Vitamins Lower Homocysteine
B vitamins lower blood levels of a compound called homocysteine. The risk of
heart disease and stroke is increased when a person has high blood levels of
homocysteine, so it follows that taking B vitamins to lower homocysteine levels
would improve outcomes.
But until now, researchers have had little success trying to show that.
Study after study has failed to show that B vitamins prevent heart disease
or stroke, says ASA spokesman Larry B. Goldstein, MD, director of the Duke
Stroke Center at Duke University, in Durham, N.C.
"We need to sift through all the studies and try to figure out why the
results are conflicting," he tells WebMD. Until then, Goldstein does not
recommend taking vitamins to prevent cardiovascular disease.
Saposnik says he thinks his study is the first to "use an adequate
dose" of vitamin B12 to lower homocysteine and stroke levels. The daily
vitamin regimen in the new study involved 2.5 milligrams of folic acid, 50
milligrams of vitamin B6, and 1 milligram of vitamin B12 -- far more than most
people get in their diets.
Still, Saposnik agrees with Goldstein that further study is needed before
any firm conclusions can be drawn.
B Vitamins vs. Second Stroke
Also at the meeting, University of California, Los Angeles, researchers
reported that taking B-complex vitamins as directed by your doctor may help
lower the risk of a second stroke.
The study involved 3,353 people who had suffered a stroke. The researchers
added high- or low-dose B vitamins -- folate, vitamin B12, and vitamin B6 -- to
state-of-the-art medical care for two years.
Researchers collected demographic, clinical, and laboratory data when they
entered the study and at follow-up visits six, 12, and 24 months later.
Previously reported findings from the trial were disappointing, suggesting
that the B vitamins did not lower the risk of recurrent stroke. But this time,
researchers looked at what happened when people actually took their
First, they divided the participants into two groups: Those who took their
vitamins as prescribed at least 80% of the time, and those who took them less
Results showed that people who stuck with the program were much less likely
to suffer a second stroke, have a heart attack, or die: Only 13% did vs. 20% of
the people who didn't follow through.
Goldstein says that may be because people who take the medication as
directed are more likely to have other healthful characteristics: They may
exercise more and eat a healthier diet, for example.