Folic Acid May Fight High Blood Pressure

Effect of Diet, Supplements Greater Among Younger Women

From the WebMD Archives

Jan. 18, 2005 -- Women who get a lot of folic acid in their diet or through supplements are less likely to have high blood pressure.

A new study shows that younger women who got at least 1,000 micrograms of folic acid a day from their diet or supplements had a 46% lower risk of developing high blood pressure.high blood pressure.

Folic acid is a B-complex vitamin found naturally in leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, and lentils. Folic acid, also known as folate, can also be found in vitamin supplements and fortified foods such as breads and breakfast cereals.

Researchers say folic acid is thought to reduce the risk of high blood pressure by helping blood vessels relax and improve blood flow.

Previous studies have shown that diets rich in folic acid can improve blood pressure, but researchers say this is the first study to show that higher folic acid intake is associated with a lower risk of developing high blood pressure.

High blood pressure affects an estimated 65 million people in the U.S. Since the risk of developing high blood pressure increases with age, researchers say identifying ways to reduce a person's risk of the disease through diet and lifestyle could have a major impact on public health.

In the study, which appears in the Jan. 19 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers analyzed diet and blood pressure information from more than 150,000 women. None of the women had a history of high blood pressure.

Information on folic acid from dietary sources and supplements was collected from the women and updated every four years.

Which Is Better? Diet or Supplements

The results showed that women aged 27 to 44 years who got at least 1,000 micrograms a day of folic acid from their diet and supplements were 46% less likely to develop high blood pressure than women who got less than 200 micrograms per day.

Women aged 43 to 70 years also experienced a blood pressure benefit from folic acid. Among these women, those who had a higher folic acid intake had an 18% lower risk of high blood pressure.

Although total folic acid intake was linked to a lower risk of high blood pressure, researchers say their results show that folic acid supplementation may play a more significant role in preventing high blood pressure.high blood pressure.

They found a significant relationship between folic acid supplementation and high blood pressure risk, but the relationship between folic acid from food sources and blood pressure risk was not clear.

The results indicate that the beneficial effects of folic acid supplementation on lowering blood pressure risk were greatest among younger women. Researchers say these results could have important public health implications because women of childbearing age are already advised to take vitamins that contain folic acid in order to reduce the risk of birth defects.

Show Sources

SOURCE: Forman, J. The Journal of the American Medical Association, Jan. 19, 2005; vol 293: pp 320-329.
© 2005 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved. View privacy policy and trust info