Heart disease is a rising issue Heart attacks and strokes are the leading cause of death for women and men as one person suffers one heart attack 3 times per minute.
Folic acid (vitamin B9) is necessary to form new cells by creation of DNA as well as cell division. This is vital since healthy cells rely on the flawless replicating of DNA. The benefits of folic acid during pregnancy are well-documented however many don’t realize that folic acids could also provide a affordable and straightforward method of reducing the risk of developing heart disease.
Folic acid can be described as the main vitamin that helps maintain homocysteine levels that are normal, and the presence of high levels is a major risk indicator for heart disease.
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Why Is Homocysteine Significant?
The body creates homocysteine, a form of amino acid, by eating foods that contain methionine, an amino acid that is found in predominantly meat-based meals. The body then converts homocysteine within the blood to glutathione, or SAMe (S-adenosyl methionine) and any excess gets transformed back into methionine.
The scientific interest in Folic acid is based on the vital role of this vitamin in the conversion of homocysteine to methionine. If this conversion process is not able to occur the homocysteine levels in blood increase, which can lead to an increase in free radical oxidation, and the damage that this can cause to cholesterol and the artery wall.
Oxidation causes cholesterol levels to turn “sticky” and clump together which leads to the stiffening and thickening of blood vessels ( atherosclerosis). Homocysteine levels that are high also decrease the amount of nitric Oxide in the blood, which is a molecular chemical required to keep the walls of the artery flexible and to prevent atherosclerosis.
Is There Reliable Proof?
Numerous clinical trials have investigated the connection between folic acids homocysteine levels and risk of heart attack. Here are some of the largest research studies that have been completed:
- A recent meta-analysis included 2052 patients who had at least one risk of cardiovascular disease. The results are released in the Journal of Atherosclerosis found that a supplementation of 500 mg of folic acids daily for a period of 18 months decreased homocysteine concentrations by as much as 25 percent. Folic acid also slowed the hardening of arteries, and the authors pointed out that the greatest level of protection was seen in the research that had the highest reduction in homocysteine levels.
- In a separate study people who had an background of heart-related disease were administered 200,400, 800, or 1,000 milligrams of folic acid, or placebo every day for a period of three months. Researchers determined homocysteine levels at the beginning of the study within 3 months of supplementation and 3 months after the supplementation stopped. After the three-month period of supplementation all the groups who took folic acid had decreased homocysteine levels. The reduction was proportional to the dosage, which was that was up to 800mcg. An intake of 800mcg daily decreased homocysteine levels 23% in comparison with the group that received placebo but at 1000mcg a day the drop is reduced only a little. Researchers also discovered that three months after the discontinuation of supplementation homocysteine levels reverted to levels similar to before the study. Researchers also noted that a reduction of 23% in homocysteine levels could lower the risk of developing coronary heart diseases by fifteen percent.
- An article published by JAMA included 20,000 patients who had high blood pressure but with no prior history of heart attack. Results showed that the use of enalapril (0.8mg) and Folic acid (0.8mg) significantly decreased the chance of having a heart attack or stroke, when compared with the use of enalapril on its own.
Although the evidence for the capability of folic acid to lower homocysteine levels seems to be fairly convincing however, there aren’t any studies that have shown that lowering homocysteine levels reduces the chance of having heart attacks:
- The Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation 2 (HOPE2) trial followed 5500 participants for 5 years. Participants were given either the placebo option or a combination consisting of folic acid (2.5mg) and Vitamin B6 (50mg) in addition to vitamin B12 (1mg) every day. The results showed that although the homocysteine levels were reduced by folic acid levels, it didn’t reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack in comparison with the group that received placebo.
- It was the Norwegian Vitamin Trial (NORVIT) included 3700 patients who recently suffered heart attacks. In the same way, although the combination of folic acids and vitamin B6 decreased homocysteine levels it did not reduce the chance of having recurrent strokes or heart attacks.
In general, high levels of homocysteine are found in people who suffer from heart attacks and Folic acid has been found to reduce homocysteine levels. But homocysteine levels that are lower don’t necessarily mean that you’ll be able to avoid the onset of heart attacks in the future or strokes. If you’re an adult who has already suffered a heart attack it might be too to late for supplementation with folic acid to have an impact on the heart.
The Amount Folic Acid Do I Need?
If you are at a high risk of developing heart disease, testing for homocysteine levels could be an important test that could save your life. It is as simple as a small blood sample that is later determined in micromoles per litre (umol/L) which is often called units.
There isn’t a homocysteine threshold that is safe, and further research is required. However, the latest research indicates that a homocysteine value less than 6 units is optimal, since levels higher than 6.3 have been proven to increase the danger of a heart attack as well as Alzheimer’s.
It is believed that the homocysteine average for the UK is approximately 10.5 units. It is estimated that up to 30% of those who have the background of heart condition have levels higher than 14 units.
How Much Folic Acid Do I Need?
The daily dose for adults and children older than 11 years old is 200 mg per day. This is a number of people can attain through the diet alone. The best food sources are dark leafy vegetables, broccoli as well as nuts, seeds oranges, whole wheat bread.
Anyone considering becoming pregnant is advised to take a daily 400mcg supplement of folic acid and continue it throughout the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
The requirement to fortify gluten-free wheat with folic acids is being studied in the United Kingdom’s Department of Health to further ensure that birth defects are prevented during pregnancy. Around 83 countries have passed laws for the compulsory fortification of food with folic acid, which includes Australia, Canada, and the US in which homocysteine levels have dropped substantially since the introduction of this law.
For the health of your heart The amount of folic acids required is contingent on your homocysteine levels. If your homocysteine is lower than 6 mg, then 200 mg of folic acid daily will be enough to ensure that your homocysteine levels remain healthy. However, clinical studies suggest the need for higher dosages necessary to decrease homocysteine levels that are elevated and this implies that the 200mcg of folic acid found in many multivitamins isn’t enough to protect you against heart disease.
Should I supplement my diet With Folic Acid?
It’s crucial to be aware that homocysteine levels high aren’t the sole risk of heart attacks, and therefore, lowering levels can’t prevent heart attacks on its own. If you’re at risk of having a higher risk of developing heart disease, it’s recommended to follow a comprehensive strategy to reduce homocysteine cholesterol, blood pressure, and homocysteine by avoiding fat-rich foods, limiting the amount of lean meats you consume to four portions a day as well as reducing your alcohol intake, and reducing stress.
Additionally an everyday intake of folic acids supplements could aid in keeping homocysteine at an acceptable level, especially in those who have an ancestral history of stroke, heart disease, as well as Alzheimer’s. It is recommended to consume folic acid together with B6 and vitamin B12, so choose a vitamin B that is high in strength and a complex multivitamin every day. It should contain at least 400IU of the folic acid.
If you’ve been through a series of having heart attacks speak with your GP to determine if your dose can be determined by your personal requirements.