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Folic Acid and Vitamin B did not Reduce Subsequent Heart Attack Risk - Two Studies Found Supplements Lowered Homocysteine Levels Not Risk

March 12th 2006

Folic Acid and Vitamin B did not Reduce Subsequent Heart Attack Risk - Two Studies Found Supplements Lowered Homocysteine Levels Not Risk


Combination Folic Acid with Vitamin B supplements may not lower cardiovascular risk, according to a new studies in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).  Researchers announced at the American College of Cardiology, in Atlanta that lowering homocysteine levels by supplementation has no effect in preventing heart attacks, and may even trigger them.  The studies focused on people that have already had heart attacks or suffer from diabetes and other ailments.

There were two studies in the NEJM concerning the supplements.  One of the studies indicated that there may be a "marginally significant" decrease in stroke risk after supplementation. This may not be worth the risk though.  The authors of one of the studies (Homocysteine Lowering and Cardiovascular Events after Acute Myocardial Infarction) concluded that “Treatment with B vitamins did not lower the risk of recurrent cardiovascular disease after acute myocardial infarction. A harmful effect from combined B vitamin treatment was suggested. Such treatment should therefore not be recommended.”


Homocysteine, a sulfur-containing amino acid, has already been linked to increased risk of premature coronary artery disease, stroke and thromboembolism, even among people with normal cholesterol levels.

Previous studies have found that abnormal homocysteine levels contribute to atherosclerosis by creating a direct toxic effect that damages the cell lining inside the arteries, by interference with clotting factors, and by oxidizing the low-density lipoproteins (LDL).  This has brought about studies to learn how to lower homocysteine levels.    

In the new Norwegian Vitamin (NORVIT) trial, researchers randomly assigned 3,749 men and women who have had heart attacks to receive folic acid, vitamins B6 and B12, or a placebo.  Surprisingly, even though the homocysteine levels were lowered an average of 27 percent over 3 years, it did not lower the risk of another heart attack, or death from a subsequent heart attack.

The second article, Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation (HOPE) 2 study, included more than 5,500 patients who had diabetes or vascular disease.  These patients received folic acid, vitamins B12 and B6, or a placebo.  


This second study produced similar results. The homocysteine levels dropped significantly among those taking the supplements, but their risk of death from heart disease or heart attacks was not lower over five years. This is the study that showed a slight reduction in stroke among people taking the supplements.  The researchers concluded: “combined daily administration of 2.5 mg [milligrams] of folic acid, 50 mg of vitamin B6, and 1 mg of vitamin B12 for five years had no beneficial effects on major vascular events in a high-risk population with vascular disease."  They did not support the combined vitamin treatment either.

Experts point out that the findings may not be the same for healthy people.  According to Annette Dickinson, PhD, of the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), “While these studies contribute importantly to the research base, they have limited application for the general population.  These studies did not test whether B vitamins used by healthy people can help keep them healthy. Instead, they looked at whether B vitamins can treat or reverse heart disease in people who already have it. Vitamins should not be expected to perform like drugs—their greatest promise is in prevention.”   CRN was founded in 1973 and represents the dietary supplement industry.

Dickinson said that it is hard to undo the damage caused by heart disease, and that patients should not rely on B-vitamins to treat disease.  There are at least ten clinical trials are now on-going or have been recently completed looking at whether B vitamins can reduce the risk of Cardio Vascular Disease (CVD). 

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By Dan Wilson
Best Syndication Staff Writer

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Keywords and misspellings:  coranary micro-vascular disfunction iscemic iskemic ishcemic ishcemia angiograf blood presure stroke embolism imbolism embilism embelism bloode clot


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Copyright 2005 Best Syndication                                            Last Updated Saturday, July 10, 2010 09:50 PM