Folic Acid May Help Reduce Risk of Stroke
Folic acid supplements have been found to reduce the risk of stroke when taken alongside a drug for high blood pressure called enalapril. Past studies have linked folic acid supplementation to a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, prompting researchers to examine how likely it is to reduce stroke risk.
Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study involved 20,702 adults in China, aged 45-75, who had high blood pressure but no history of stroke or heart attack. 4.5 years into the study, 282 (2.7%) of participants who were treated with a combination of enalapril and folic acid had suffered a first stroke, as opposed to 355 (3.4%) of those who were only treated with enalapril. Overall, the researchers calculated that the additional aid of folic acid was associated with a 21% lower risk of stroke compared to treatment with enalapril alone, and a 0.7% reduction in absolute risk of first-time stroke.
Folic acid is a B vitamin that the body needs for healthy cell production. It can be found in some vegetables, particularly dark green leafy vegetables, as well as in fruits and fruit juices, nuts, beans and peas. A lack of folic acid has been linked to various health conditions, and pregnant women are encouraged to increase their intake because it has been linked to significant reductions in the risk of birth defects.
In an editorial linked to the study, Dr Meir Stampfer and Dr Walter Willet, of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Channing Division of Network Medicine in Boston, say that the results of this study are widely applicable for the prevention of stroke in those both with or without high blood pressure.
“Large segments of the world’s population, potentially billions of people, including those living in northern China, Bangladesh and Scandinavia have low levels of folate.”
“For many populations, achieving adequate levels from diet alone is difficult because of expense or availability. This study seems to support fortification programs where feasible, and supplementation should be considered where fortification will take more time to implement.”