Folate Lowers Risk of High Blood Pressure

Folate Relaxes Blood Vessels in Women, Helping to Prevent High Blood Pressure

Oct. 11, 2004 -- A folate-rich diet cuts a young woman's risk of high blood pressure by almost one-third, new research shows. Folate also reduces older women's risk of high blood pressure to a lesser degree.

Folate, a B-complex vitamin, is the basis of any great salad: citrus fruits, spinach and romaine lettuce, and lentil beans are good sources of folate. Flour is also fortified with folic acid, the synthetic form of folate, so breads and many breakfast cereals help boost the average diet.

Folate reduces levels of homocysteine, a protein in the blood that has been linked to heart disease. Folate is also believed to help blood vessels relax, improve blood flow, and reduce the risk of high blood pressure, explains lead researcher John P. Forman, MD, with Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

He presented his report at the annual High Blood Pressure Research Conference in Chicago this week.

To determine whether folate was related to the risk of high blood pressure, Forman and his colleagues studied more than 150,000 women in two age groups: 43 to 70 years old and 26 to 46 years old. None of the younger women had high blood pressure at the start of the eight-year study.

The younger women showed the most dramatic effects:

  • Younger women getting more than 800 micrograms of folate daily -- in their diet and in vitamin supplements -- had a 29% lower risk of high blood pressure than other women.
  • Older women who got 800 micrograms of folate daily had a 13% lower risk of high blood pressure than women who took 200 micrograms a day or less.
  • Young women with very low dietary folate who got their folate from vitamin supplements had a 39% lower risk of high blood pressure compared with young women who did not take folate supplements.

Other factors that influence blood pressure -- like exercise, salt intake, and diet -- were taken into account in determining folate's impact on high blood pressure, Forman says.