Vitamin B and heart disease

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
August 19, 2008 3:37:28 PM PDT
There is new information about a vitamin's ability to reduce your risk for a heart attack or stroke.Coronary heart disease is a huge problem in this country. Doctors estimate 14 million people have it. Arteries supplying the heart are clogging up with fatty material like calcium and plaque. Some studies suggest that some vitamins might counter heart disease, so researchers have put them to the test.

Studies have consistently found a link, that people with cardiovascular heart disease have a high level of an amino acid in the blood called homocysteine.

So it stands to reason that lowering homocysteine could possibly improve a patient's health.

"We could lower their homocysteine values and thus, we thought also we could lower their risk for having further heart attacks and related disease," said Dr. Marta Ebbing, of Haukeland University Hospital.

Dr. Ebbing is a heart researcher in Norway. She and her colleagues studied more than 3,000 patients with coronary artery disease. Some received a daily dose of vitamin B12, B6 or folic acid. Others received a placebo, an identical phony sugar pill.

The patients were followed for about three years. Blood samples allowed researchers to monitor homocysteine levels. The levels dropped in the patients taking the real vitamins, but...

"Although we lowered homocysteine by almost one-third, it did not seem to have any beneficial effects," Dr. Ebbing said.

The vitamin didn't help in the long run, because it didn't help lower the risk of heart attacks, stroke or death in the patients with coronary heart disease.

"We couldn't find any statistical difference between the groups," Dr. Oyvind Bleie said. "So there's no prevention in the B vitamin treatment."

The researchers say their findings are consistent with previous studies, but they want further study with vitamin B to better understand how exactly how it could impact a person's health.

"Unless you have proven B vitamin deficiency, we find no reason to recommend the use of B vitamin supplements if you have got coronary artery disease to improve your health," Dr. Ebbing said.

While researchers found patients with coronary artery disease did not benefit from B vitamins, they also report that no increased adverse effects were observed in patients either.

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STORY BY: Dr. Jay Adlersberg

WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King

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