Taking a folic acid supplement could be a “wise move for all adults in the UK,” the Health & Food Supplements Information Service (HSIS) has said in response to further evidence suggesting this can reduce the risk of stroke by lowering levels of homocysteine in the blood.

The HSIS statement was in response to a study due to be published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology that followed 10,789 Chinese men and women with high blood pressure for 4.2 years.

The researchers found that for individuals with a low blood platelet count and high levels of homocysteine, taking both folic acid and enalapril led to a 73 per cent reduction in the risk of first stroke compared to just taking enalapril daily (from a 5.6 per cent risk to a 1.8 per cent risk).

Over the study period, 210 first strokes occurred in the enalapril-only group, compared to 161 in the enalapril-folic acid group.

Growing evidence base

Dr Gill Jenkins, a GP and advisor to the Health & Food Supplements Information Service (HSIS), said: “Folic acid is an essential B vitamin which is required for making red blood cells and the synthesis and repair of DNA and RNA. Folic acid is also capable of lowering homocysteine levels in the blood.

“This is important because high levels of homocysteine are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, including stroke. Several large controlled trial and meta-analyses have shown that folic acid supplementation can reduce the risk of stroke.

“Given the evidence demonstrating the capability of folic acid supplementation in reducing homocysteine levels and risk of stroke the results of the current study are not surprising.”

‘A wise move’

Individuals should undergo a “detailed biochemical assessment” before starting any medical treatment, Dr Jenkins said, adding that combining folic acid with standard anti-hypertensive drugs may be particularly beneficial to people with high blood pressure, high homocysteine levels and a low platelet count.

Dr Jenkins added that while no one should change their treatment regimen without first consulting their doctor, “the findings of this study suggest that taking a B vitamin or multi-vitamin and multi-mineral supplement containing folic acid would be a wise move for all adults in the UK.”

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