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Folic acid may help to prevent atherosclerosis

March 6, 2013

A new Chinese data review says that daily folic acid supplementation may reduce hardening of the arteries and decrease atherosclerosis risk.

The meta-analysis included data from 10 randomized controlled trials investigating the heart health benefits of folic acid, involving a total of 2,052 people (1). The study results showed that regular supplementation with folic acid was consistently associated with significantly reduced thickening of artery walls (carotid intima-media thickness, CIMT), particularly for people with chronic kidney disease or with a high risk of severe cardiovascular disease. The benefits were most significant when folic acid intakes were associated with the greatest reductions of high homocysteine levels, which have been linked to heart disease.

The researchers concluded that increased folic acid intakes are associated with less hardening of the arterial walls, which has proved to be a good marker for both the presence of early atherosclerosis and the degree of atherosclerosis within an individual. In addition, the analysis proved, according to them, that folic acid supplementation could not possibly increase the progression of atherosclerosis, irrespective of baseline homocysteine concentrations.

Some clinical trials including participants at risk of, or already suffering from, cardiovascular disease showed no clear effect from folic acid supplementation. Experts argued that short-term supplementation with B vita-mins cannot be expected to reverse the long-term development of heart disease.

References

  1. Qin X. et al. Effect of folic acid supplementation on the progression of carotid intima-media thickness: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Atherosclerosis. 2012; 222(2):307–313.