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Nutrient - Folic acid may improve artery function and heart health

By Holly Taylor BSc (Hons) DipCNM MBANT

A new study, published in the British Journal of Surgery, suggests that folic acid may improve heart health and reduce the prevalence of a condition called peripheral arterial disease (PAD). PAD is associated with decreased blood flow in the legs and occurs when arteries in the legs become narrowed or clogged with fatty deposits.

Fortunately, the researchers from Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital NHS Trust have discovered that supplementation with 400mcg of folic acid may help improve blood pressure and blood flow in people with PAD.

The study followed 133 people with PAD who were randomly assigned to receive one of two 400mcg folic acid supplements or a dummy pill for 16 weeks. At the end of the study, the researchers noted that, compared to the placebo group, both the folic acid groups displayed reduced arterial stiffness and consequent enhancement in blood flow, as well as significant reductions in homocysteine levels.

A number of studies have linked increased blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine to an increased risk of heart and blood vessel problems. It has been suggested that lowering the levels of homocysteine in the blood with B vitamins, such as folic acid, could help people reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease.

“This study found that folate supplementation substantially reduced plasma homocysteine and produced a statistically significant but clinically modest improvement in peripheral arterial circulation compared with placebo,” concluded the researchers.  

Article References

N. Khandanpour et al. (2009) “Randomized clinical trial of folate supplementation in patients with peripheral arterial disease” British Journal of Surgery. Vol. 96. Is. 9. p990-998

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