B vitamins fail to lower heart disease risk

May 7, 2008 in Heart Health, Nutrition Topics in the News, Vitamins, Minerals, Supplements

B vitamins fail to lower heart disease risk

Supplementing with B vitamins to reduce high levels of homocysteine - a blood protein that's thought to damage arteries and boost heart attack risk - does nothing to protect women at risk for heart disease from subsequent heart attacks, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In this study, 5,442 women aged 42 or older were randomized to take 2.5 milligrams of folic acid with 50 milligrams of vitamin B6 and 1 milligram of vitamin B12 daily or a placebo.  All the women had diagnosed heart disease or heart disease risk.

After seven years, compared to women taking the placebo,  women who supplemented with B vitamins had no significant change in the incidence of heart disease or heart-related deaths, though homocysteine levels fell by nearly 20 percent.

These results concur with a 2005 study from Norway that showed no decrease in heart disease mortality despite lowered blood levels of homocysteine from increased intake of B vitamins. 

Previous studies have demonstrated that taking supplemental folic acid, B12 and B6 can help lower homosysteine levels in the blood. It remains to be seen if lowering homocysteine translates into protection from heart attack or stroke. This study, like others, suggests B vitamin supplements don't ward off heart attack in people with exisitng heart disease.

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