of the vitamin lower blood pressure in women and maybe in men
Folic Acid is one of the more
essential B vitamins, especially for women of childbearing age,
and a little bit 100 micrograms a day goes a long way toward preventing
spina bifida and other birth defects.
Now a major study published in the Journal of the American Medical
Association has confirmed what smaller studies had only hinted
at: that women who consume large amounts of folate
(in the region of 1,000 micrograms a day) have a lower risk of
developing hypertension for younger women, it's significantly
The report, part of the on going
Nurses' Health Study, tracked the folate intake of nearly 94,000
women ages 27 to 44 over eight years and found that those who
consumed at least 1,000 micrograms a day had a 46% lower risk
of high blood pressure than women who took less than 200 a day.
A parallel study of 62,000 women aged 43 to 70 found an 18% reduction.
It's not yet clear how folic acid does this, although the
supplement is know to reduce levels of homocysteine,
a blood component that can damage blood vessels. Women who got
their folate eating foods naturally
high in the vitamin such as nuts, leafy greens and berries didn't
derive the same benefit as those who took folic acid supplements,
perhaps because it's hard to eat enough vegetables in one day.
Men haven't yet been studied as thoroughly, but there's
no reason to think they wouldn't get the same benefit from high
doses of folate. Dr. John Forman of
Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, the principal investigator,
isn't ready to say that everybody should take 1,000 micrograms
of folate a day. He wants to see his
findings confirmed in a large, randomized trial in which half
the subjects take the supplement and half take a placebo. Other
scientists caution that early studies suggesting that large doses
of vitamin E protect against heart disease haven't panned out.
But since millions of people in Asia suffer from high blood
pressure, and there isn't any know downside to taking folate,
it might not be a bad idea for all adults to take the current
recommended dose of 400 micrograms a day.
reporting by Shahreen Abedin/New York