HEART
May 2, 2010

B-Vitamins and Cardiovascular Health

Vitamin B6 and folate can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. A reduction in homocysteine seems to be at work.

Some of the B-vitamins – specifically, B6 and folate – may protect the heart against cardiovascular disease, according to a recent study. The same effect was not seen for vitamin B12, say the researchers, who report their findings in the April 15, 2010 online edition of the journal Stroke.

The researchers found that for men who consumed the greatest amounts of vitamins B6 and folate, their risk of dying from heart failure was significantly less than for men who ate the least. The heart benefits for women were even more striking.

The researchers followed participants who were part of the Japanese Collaborative Cohort study, for an average period of 14 years. During this time, over 2,000 participants died from cardiovascular disease in general; 986 died of stroke, 424 from coronary heart disease, and 318 from heart failure.

The researchers found that for men who consumed the greatest amounts of vitamins B6 and folate, their risk of dying from heart failure was significantly less than for men who ate the least. The heart benefits for women were even more striking. Women who consumed the most B6 and folate had a significantly reduced risk of dying of stroke, coronary heart disease, and overall cardiovascular disease.

The researchers suggest that reduction in the amino acid homocysteine is what’s behind the B-vitamins’ heart-healthy effects. B-vitamins have already been shown to reduce blood levels of homocysteine, which, in turn, has been associated with reduced risk for coronary heart disease and stroke, the researchers write.

Folate is found in dark, leafy greens like spinach, collards, broccoli, as well as in some legumes, fruits, and grains. Vitamin B6 is also found in fruits, vegetables, and grains, but also in dairy products and some meats.

The researchers conclude by saying that their results suggest that “high dietary folate and vitamin B6 intakes were associated with a reduced risk of mortality from stroke, [coronary heart disease], and heart failure among Japanese.” Whether the findings will also be true for other populations of people, though likely, will need to be addressed in future rese

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