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Folic Acid Can Reduce Risk of Heart Disease


 

Are you up-to-date on your Folic Acid news?

What's so good about Folic Acid?

Folic acid is vitamin B9 in water-soluble form.  It is a nutrient you get naturally in your diet, as folate, from green leafy veggies, cauliflower, beans and organ meats.  It has been known for decades that this nutrient is important for pregnant women because it prevents birth defects.  But the big news these days is that folic acid helps reduce the risk of strokes.  Folic acid acts in your blood to reduce homocysteine concentrations in your body. 

Homo-what?

Homocysteine.  It may be an unfamiliar word, but you may already be familiar with the harm it can cause.  In a nutshell, homocysteine is an amino acid in your blood that attacks blood vessel walls and promotes cardiovascular disease.  If your system is short on folic acid, your body can’t break down homocysteine like it should. 

High blood levels of homocysteine have been clearly associated with heart disease.  In fact, people who have high blood homocysteine levels are twice as likely to suffer from clogged arteries.  A recent study at the University of Washington found that high homocysteine levels pose a risk for cardiovascular disease regardless of a patient’s other risk factors like cholesterol, triglycerides, and smoking.(1)

The “New Cholesterol?”

Because it is a risk factor for heart attacks and strokes, homocysteine has been called the “new cholesterol.” (1) However, there is one huge difference between homocysteine and cholesterol:  you can’t keep your homocysteine level down just by staying away from certain foods.  Unlike cholesterol, homocysteine is not found in foods.  It’s in your blood at various levels, and getting the right amount of folic acid can keep it from being too high.

Do I need folic acid?

An overwhelming number of studies show that yes, you do.  Everyone needs it.  And you get some of what you need from foods you eat.  But deficiencies of folic acid and other B-vitamins are very common.  In one study, 59 percent of middle-aged men were found to be folic acid deficient.  In other research, 30 percent of elderly men and women studied had elevated blood homocysteine levels.  In 1995 Dr. Rene Malinow at Oregon Health Sciences University, reported that 30 to 40 percent of people with cerebrovascular and peripheral artery disease had highs homocysteine levels.  (1)

What else can folic acid do for me?

In addition to lowering your homocysteine level, folic acid also provides some benefit in reducing the risk of high blood pressure, possibly because it helps maintain the flexibility of arteries and helps your body adjust its own blood pressure. (2)Folate also helps maintain the nervous system, intestinal tract, sex organs and normal growth patterns.  It promotes healthy skin, protects against cancer, and prevents canker sores.  And here’s some emerging research we’ll keep an eye on:  High homocysteine levels may even be associated with dementia.

And we can’t leave out the folate information that is crucial to moms-to-be.  Since the 1960s it has been well documented that folic acid is necessary for a new mother-to-be to ensure that the neural tube closes on a developing fetus.  If you are expecting a baby, or plan to have children in the future, you should discuss this with your doctor to make sure you have sufficient levels of folic acid early in your pregnancy.

How much folic acid do I need?

A new study from Taiwan indicates that in test subjects who had high homocysteine when they began the study, and in subjects who had a genetic propensity for high homocysteine, their levels lowered when they consumed a low dose folic acid supplement. (3)

A popular 2005 Harvard study, the Nurses’ Health Study II, found that women who got at least 1,000 micrograms of folate a day were 25 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure than those consuming less than 200 micrograms per day.  Many other studies have looked at lower doses and found that taking more than 800 mcg does not provide any added benefit. (2)  

Interestingly, the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (USRDA) of folic acid has been deliberately set at a low level because, when looking at blood cells under a microscope, folic acid can mask some signs of a B-12 deficiency.  However, since the time when the RDAs for folic acid were set, science has progressed to better, more sensitive methods for detecting B-12 deficiency, in which folic acid masking that problem is no longer a factor.   Still, most folic acid supplements, as a “just-in-case” simple solution, include B-12 as well. (1)

Our B-Active vitamins provide 800 mcg of folic acid, along with vitamins B-12 and B-6 in a unique hard-to-find timed release formula.  Timed release is important since your body cannot store up B vitamins. They simply get eliminated through the urine because most B vitamins that you find over the counter or on the internet do not have this special quality to them.

Keeping your body healthy is something you do for yourself and for the people who love you.  We can not over-emphasize the importance of a well-balanced diet.  And as you make the effort to eat healthy for your heart; don’t forget the importance of folic acid, and the probable need to provide more to your body through high quality B supplements.

References:

(1)   Challem, Jack.  1995.  The B-Vitamins and Heart Disease.  Nutrition Reporter Newsletter.

(2)   Weber, Craig, M.D.  Can Folic Acid Prevent High Blood Pressure?  Your Guide to High Blood Pressure.

(3)   Lina PT, Leeb B-J, Changc H-H, Tsaid A-J, Huanga YC.  Low-dose folic acid supplementation reduces homocysteine concentration in hyperhomocysteinemic coronary artery disease patients.  Nutrition Research, September 2006; 26 (9): 460-466.