B-vitamins critical for heart health

With the buzz about B-vitamins, most people now know that they are essential for stress-management and disease prevention—especially heart disease. Vitamin B-6, B-12 and folic acid help convert the amino acid homocysteine into harmless byproducts. Without sufficient B-vitamins, homocysteine levels may become elevated, which is associated with increased risk of heart disease.

At the University Hospital and Institute for Cardiovascular Research in Amsterdam, researchers took a novel approach to studying heart health. They used the siblings of patients with a history of blood clots in a double-blind, placebo controlled study and tested the effect of folic acid and vitamin B-6 on homocysteine levels. The study involved 158 healthy siblings of 167 heart patients. The study group was given 5 mg of folic acid and 250 mg of vitamin B-6 daily for two years. At the end of the study, participants showed decreased homocysteine levels and fewer abnormal exercise test results.

A similar study was conducted at the National Heart and Lung Institute of the Imperial College School of Medicine in the UK. There, researchers studying coronary heart disease (CHD) also confirmed that supplementation with B-vitamins can lower homocysteine levels by up to 30%. This study involved 89 men with CHD ranging in age from 39 to 67 years. The men were given folic acid and vitamin B-12 for eight weeks and then underwent heart health assessments. Results showed that the group experienced improved vascular function and decreased homocysteine levels.

Sources: Circulation 2000 Nov 14;102(20):2479-83; Lancet 2000 Feb 12;355(9203):517-22; Leslie Beck’s Nutrition Encyclopedia by L Beck, Prentice Hall:2001