Atherosclerosis occurs when the arteries become clogged with fatty substances called plaques. Over time, these plaques cause the arteries to harden and narrow, which can restrict blood flow and cause blood clots. Many people know that high cholesterol levels are a common cause of atherosclerosis, however few people are aware that high homocysteine levels can also pose a serious risk to the health of the heart.
Homocysteine is an amino acid in the blood that is known to increase the risk of heart attack and stroke when present at high levels. New findings show that folic acid supplements
may help to reduce homocysteine levels and slow the hardening of arteries that is associated with athersclerosis.
Folic acid study details
A review, published in Atherosclerosis, analysed findings from ten separate placebo-controlled studies that measured carotid artery thickness when using folic acid supplements. There is substantial evidence to link carotid artery wall thickening and atherosclerosis.
Combined, the trials included 2,052 participants, some of who were healthy and some who had chronic kidney or heart disease. Participants received between 0.8mcg to 15mcg of folic acid for a period 3 to 42 months.
A natural remedy for atherosclerosis?
Findings showed that in all trials, folic acid slowed the thickening of arterial walls and reduced homocysteine levels. Researchers noted that participants with chronic kidney and heart disease showed the most significant benefits.
Study authors said that their results “indicate that folic acid supplementation significantly reduces the progression of carotid artery wall thickening, particularly in subjects with chronic kidney disease or high cardiovascular disease risk.”
Xianhui Qin, et al. (2012) ‘Effect of folic acid supplementation on the progression of carotid intima-media thickness: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.’ Atherosclerosis, Volume 222, Issue 2, Pages 307-313, June 2012.