November 27 2006
by Ben Kage
(NewsTarget) Experts have long recommended folic acid for pregnant women or women who may become pregnant, but a new study by researchers at the Wolfson Institute for Preventive Medicine in London and the Barts & The London Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry has confirmed the B vitamin also reduces people's risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
In previous studies, folic acid -- abundant in liver and leafy greens -- was found to contribute to the healthy formation of brain and spinal cord tissue while fetuses are in the womb, and evidence suggested that severe folic acid deficiency lead to the neural tube disorder known as spina bifida. However, the Wolfson Institute researchers took a different route and analyzed previous research on the relationship between cardiovascular complications and homosysteine, a blood compound that can harm arteries and increase heart disease risk at high levels.
The study covered a large number of people with high homosysteine levels, as well as a group of people who have a genetic mutation that raises homosysteine levels. The mutation affects about 10 percent of the world's population.
The evidence from the study lead the team to conclude that both groups showed positive effects after their homosysteine levels were lowered by consuming folic acid by between 10 and 20 percent, according to lead researcher Dr. David Wald. The homosysteine levels of the group afflicted by the mutation were brought down to normal by folic acid consumption.
"Folic acid is a much undervalued vitamin," Wald said. "Not only does it prevent the serious birth defect spina bifida, but the evidence that it can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke is becoming increasingly persuasive".
Additionally, small, randomized trials showing the effects of lowered homosysteine levels were studied as part of the research, although the researchers eventually concluded the trials were too small and non-representative to provide a definitive conclusion.
Other sources rich in folic acid include nuts, seeds, oranges, grapefruits, sprouts, poultry, whole wheat bread, and beans and peas, which must be lightly cooked as too much heat will destroy the folate.