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Folate may prevent hypertension in women

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS. Hypertension is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, so insights into its development are always valuable. Folate intake may have a role to play through reducing levels of homocysteine, a blood component which some studies suggest may damage blood vessels.

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School looked at folate intake and hypertension in two cohorts of healthy participants - the Nurses Health Study I, including 62,260 women aged 43-70 and the Nurses Health Study II, including 93,803 women aged 27-44. Intake of dietary folate and supplemental folic acid was measured by questionnaire at the start and every four years. Blood pressure was checked every two years. After eight years, 19,720 cases of hypertension were identified. Once many relevant factors were taken into account, younger women (aged 27 to 44 years) who consumed at least 1,000 micrograms a day of total folate had a 46 per cent lower risk of hypertension than those consuming less than 200 micrograms a day. The equivalent intake in older women (aged 43 to 70 years) reduced risk by 18 per cent. In this study, the benefit of folate was unrelated to other factors which are known to influence risk of hypertension including exercise, salt intake and diet.

The researchers also looked at the effect of folic acid supplementation through analysing data on the women with a folate intake from the diet of less than 200 micrograms a day. Among the younger women in this group, those who consumed 800 micrograms a day or more of folate (through supplementation), had a 48 per cent reduction in hypertension risk compared to those whose folate intake was less than 200 micrograms a day. The same intake produced a 40 per cent reduction in women in the older cohort. The research team concludes that supplemental folic acid may reduce the risk of hypertension and encourages future trials to examine folic acid supplementation as a means of lowering blood pressure in young women.
Forman, J P et al. Folate Intake and the Risk of Incident Hypertension Among US Women. Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 293, January 2005, pp:320-329

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