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B Vitamins Battle Heart Disease

Author: Jean Carper
Source: The Miracle Heart, The Ultimate Guide to Preventing and Curing Heart Disease with Diet and Supplements

The evidence is steadily coming in showing that supplementing with B vitamins not only lowers homocysteine, but reduces other heart-risky conditions. How destructive is homocysteine? Experts report high homocysteine can boost the risk of vascular disease as much as fivefold, and heart disease deaths sixfold. Harvard researcher Meir Stampfer estimated that at least 150,000 of all heart attacks yearly are tied to high homocysteine levels. In a five-year Norwegian study of about 900 patients, those with high homocysteine blood levels had about six times the death rates as those with low homocysteine. Even when artery damage was not severe, high homocysteine seemed to help trigger heart attacks, the analysis showed.

Yet, high homocysteine is virtually cured by safe, inexpensive doses of three B vitamins – folic acid, B6, and B12. Reducing high homocysteine may have the same impact in fighting heart disease as lowering blood cholesterol from 275 to 189, says University of Michigan’s Dr. Gilbert S. Omenn.

Quashes Homocysteine

Taking only 400 micrograms daily of folic acid supplement controls homocysteine in most people, according to new tests by M. Rene Malinow at Oregon Health Sciences University. He says 400 micrograms work as well as 1,000 or 2,000 micrograms. University of Washington researchers recently concluded that inadequate folic acid causes 56,000 heart desease deaths yearly.

A new study that recruited men and women from nine European countries supports the B vitamin/homocysteine link. The study compared 750 people with heart disease to 800 people free of heart disease. Homocysteine levels, and blood levels of folate, B6 and B12 were measured. As you might expect, those with heart disease had higher levels of homocysteine, and as a rule had lower blood levels of folic acid and B6. In fact, 35 percent of heart disease victims were clinically B6 deficient.

The study revealed something extra heart-helpful about B6. The more B6 in the blood, the lower the risk for heart disease. Yes, B6 helps suppress homocysteine, but that is not the whole explanation, says lead researcher Killian Robinson. Even when homocysteine was normal, a B6 deficiency predicted blocked blood vessels in the heart, brain and leg, he found. So regardless of homocysteine levels, a blood deficiency of B6 was still “a very powerful risk factor for heart disease and stroke,” according to Dr. Robinson. He believe vitamin B6 apparently protects arteries in other ways, perhaps by deterring blood clots and altering cholesterol. Animals fed a diet deficient in B6 develop heart disease. Dr. Robinson says about 20 percent of Americans have a B6 deficiency, which “marks” them as heart disease targets.

Curbs Cardiovascular Disease

A University of Minnesota study lends more weight to the theory that B6 is uniquely heart-protective. The study, headed by Aaron Folsom, M.D., of 759 middle-aged men and women, identifies B6 as a primary predictor of heart disease. The researchers analyzed subjects’ blood samples in 1987, then tracked the subjects for eight years. During that time, those with the highest blood levels of B6 had about one-third the chances of developing heart disease as those with the lowest B6 levels.

And a new fourteen-year Harvard study of 80,000 women nurses found that women who took in the most vitamin B6 and folic acid were about a third less likely to develop heart disease as those getting the least B vitamins. For maximum protection, Harvard researchers concluded women must be getting a daily total from food and supplement of at least 400 micrograms (mcg) folic acid and 3 milligrams (mg) vitamin B6. In this study the most was 696 mcg of folic acid and 4.8 mg of B6 daily; the least was 158 mcg of folic acid and 1.1 mg of B6.

These findings are consistent with studies showing that people with heart disease have lower blood levels of folic acid and B6 than those free of heart disease, and with other research showing that supplementing with the three Bs lowers blood homocysteine levels.