FOLIC ACID may offer extra protection against stroke, on top of reducing levels of an amino acid related to the incident.
This B vitamin, found in green leafy vegetables and some bakery products, has previously been linked to lower risk of stroke, usually thought to be a result of its impact on homocysteine levels. Homocysteine, an amino acid, has been associated with higher risk of stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.
But new studies showed that folate may actually work independently of homocysteine levels to protect against one type of stroke – haemorrhagic strokes, or those caused by bleeding in the brain.
Writing in this month’s issue of Stroke (vol 36, issue 7, pp1426-31), Dr Bethany Van Guelpen and colleagues from Umea University in Sweden said they examined blood and dietary levels of folate and vitamin B12 in 62 patients who had a haemorrhagic stroke and 334 who had an ischaemic stroke. Blood levels of folate were inversely associated with the risk of hemorrhagic stroke, even after accounting for homocysteine levels and other risk factors like high blood pressure. They found no association between blood levels of vitamin B12 and either type of stroke. Nor was dietary folate associated with the risk of ischaemic stroke, although it was inversely associated with the risk of haemorrhagic stroke. Van Guelpen’s team notes that the lack of any association with ischemic stroke was unexpected. They point out that the food in Sweden is not fortified with folate and intake of fruit and vegetables is relatively low, so folate levels might not have been high enough to show a protective effect against ischemic stroke.
Folic acid supplements might slow the decline in memory usually seen with ageing.
The new findings, presented at an Alzheimer’s prevention conference in Washington, give the growing number of elderly an inexpensive and safe way to improve quality of life. The Dutch trial found that middle-aged men and women who took 800mcg of folic acid a day over three years scored significantly better in cognitive tests than peers taking a placebo. Their memory was as good as if they were two to five years younger, said the researchers from Wageningen university in the Netherlands. “It’s the first study to convincingly show that folic acid can slow cognitive decline,” said lead author Jane Durga. “We showed that folic acid, not a mix of B vitamins, can do the job.” Previous research has suggested that folic acid, as well as other B vitamins, can reduce levels of homocysteine, an amino acid thought to play a role in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease as well as heart disease and stroke. The subjects in this trial had not been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s however and therefore cannot demonstrate that folic acid helped stave off the disease but this is being investigated in other studies. The current study involved 818 men and post-menopausal women aged 50 to 70 years old who had elevated levels of homocysteine at baseline. They were randomized to receive either folic acid or a placebo for three years. Blood folate levels for those in the supplement group increased five-fold and plasma total homocysteine concentrations decreased by around 25 per cent by the end of the study. In several cognitive tests, this group performed significantly better than the placebo group. Memory was equivalent to being 5.4 years younger and information processing was that of people two years younger. Sensory motor speed was typical of 1.9 years younger. The research adds to mounting evidence that increasing intake of the B vitamin can offer a variety of health benefits. Folic acid is proven to reduce birth defects and several studies suggest that it may also prevent heart disease and strokes. A new trial sponsored by the US National Institutes of Health is testing whether very high doses of folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12 can slow the rate of mental decline in people with Alzheimer’s. It is expected to be completed in February.
Take folic acid and other vitamin B as powder dissolved over night in a fermented milk, like Kefir or plain Yogurt, like this these vitamins will be delivered coenzymated and the bioavailability increases to 100%.