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1.  Effect of Folic Acid and Betaine Supplementation on Flow-Mediated Dilation: A Randomized, Controlled Study in Healthy Volunteers 
PLoS Clinical Trials  2006;1(2):e10.
We investigated whether lowering of fasting homocysteine concentrations, either with folic acid or with betaine supplementation, differentially affects vascular function, a surrogate marker for risk of cardiovascular disease, in healthy volunteers. As yet, it remains uncertain whether a high concentration of homocysteine itself or whether a low folate status—its main determinant—is involved in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease. To shed light on this issue, we performed this study.
This was a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover study.
The study was performed at Wageningen University in Wageningen, the Netherlands.
Participants were 39 apparently healthy men and women, aged 50–70 y.
Participants ingested 0.8 mg/d of folic acid, 6 g/d of betaine, and placebo for 6 wk each, with 6-wk washout in between.
Outcome Measures:
At the end of each supplementation period, plasma homocysteine concentrations and flow-mediated dilation (FMD) of the brachial artery were measured in duplicate.
Folic acid supplementation lowered fasting homocysteine by 20% (−2.0 μmol/l, 95% confidence interval [CI]: −2.3; −1.6), and betaine supplementation lowered fasting plasma homocysteine by 12% (−1.2 μmol/l; −1.6; −0.8) relative to placebo. Mean (± SD) FMD after placebo supplementation was 2.8 (± 1.8) FMD%. Supplementation with betaine or folic acid did not affect FMD relative to placebo; differences relative to placebo were −0.4 FMD% (95%CI, −1.2; 0.4) and −0.1 FMD% (−0.9; 0.7), respectively.
Folic acid and betaine supplementation both did not improve vascular function in healthy volunteers, despite evident homocysteine lowering. This is in agreement with other studies in healthy participants, the majority of which also fail to find improved vascular function upon folic acid treatment. However, homocysteine or folate might of course affect cardiovascular disease risk through other mechanisms.
Editorial Commentary
Background: Evidence from observational studies indicates a link between high concentrations of homocysteine (an amino acid) in the blood and increased risk of cardiovascular disease. However, the basis for the link between homocysteine concentrations and cardiovascular disease risk is not clear. Supplementing the diet with B-vitamins lowers homocysteine levels, and large-scale trials are underway that will determine whether B-vitamin supplementation has an effect on cardiovascular outcomes, such as heart attacks and strokes. These trials also involve administration of folic acid as well as other B-vitamins. It is not obvious, however, whether the effects of B-vitamin supplementation arise as a result of homocysteine lowering or via some other biochemical pathway.
What this trial shows: Olthof and colleagues aimed to further understand the effects of homocysteine lowering by randomizing 40 healthy volunteer participants to receive either folic acid supplementation; placebo; or betaine, a nutrient that lowers homocysteine levels via a different biochemical pathway than folic acid. Each participant in the trial received each supplement for 6 wk, with a 6-wk washout period before the next supplement was given. The researchers then used a technique called flow-mediated dilation (FMD) to measure functioning of the main artery of the upper arm, as a surrogate for cardiovascular disease risk. In this trial, both folic acid and betaine supplementation significantly lowered homocysteine levels over the 6-wk supplementation period. However, both forms of supplementation failed to result in any significant change in functioning of the artery, as measured using FMD.
Strengths and limitations: In this trial 40 participants were recruited, and 39 were followed up to trial completion. A crossover design was used, with each participant receiving each supplement and a placebo in sequence. This method enabled a smaller number of participants to be used to answer the question of interest, as compared to parallel-group designs. The majority of participants in the trial were followed up. However, the trial's outcomes are surrogates for cardiovascular disease risk, measured over fairly short time periods, and no clinical outcomes were examined.
Contribution to the evidence: This trial adds to the evidence on the effects of nutrient supplementation on surrogate outcomes for cardiovascular disease risk. The results show that over a 6-wk study period, these surrogate outcomes are not affected by either folic acid or betaine supplementation.
PMCID: PMC1488898  PMID: 16871332
2.  Acute Effect of Folic Acid, Betaine, and Serine Supplements on Flow-Mediated Dilation after Methionine Loading: A Randomized Trial 
PLoS Clinical Trials  2006;1(1):e4.
We investigated whether reducing post-methionine homocysteine concentrations via various treatments other than folic acid affects vascular function, as measured through flow-mediated dilation (FMD) of the brachial artery. High fasting and post-methionine homocysteine concentrations are associated with cardiovascular disease risk, but homocysteine might be a surrogate marker for low folate status.
This was a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover study.
The study took place at Wageningen University in Wageningen in the Netherlands.
Participants were 39 apparently healthy men and women, aged 50–70 y.
Participants ingested 10 mg of folic acid, 3 g of betaine, 5 g of serine, and placebo together with an oral methionine load. Each supplement was tested on two different days.
Outcome Measures:
On each of the eight treatment days, plasma homocysteine concentrations and FMD were measured before (t = 0 h, fasting) and 6 h (t = 6 h) after methionine loading.
The mean (± SD) fasting homocysteine concentrations averaged over the eight test days were 9.6 ± 2.1 μmol/l. Mean fasting FMD was 3.1 ± 2.4 FMD%. A methionine load with placebo increased homocysteine concentrations by 17.2 ± 9.3 μmol/l at 6 h after loading, similar to the increase following methionine loading with folic acid. A methionine load together with betaine and with serine increased homocysteine by 10.4 ± 2.8 μmol/l (p < 0.001 relative to placebo) and by 12.1 ± 8.2 μmol/l (p < 0.001 relative to placebo), respectively. Methionine loading with placebo did not affect FMD, and neither did methionine loading with folic acid, betaine, or serine; differences relative to placebo were +0.7 FMD% (95%CI, −0.6; 1.9), +0.2 FMD% (−1.0; 1.3), and +0.3 FMD% (−0.8; 1.4), respectively.
Experimentally induced acute changes in homocysteine concentrations did not affect FMD in healthy volunteers. This implies that potential adverse effects of high homocysteine concentrations on the cardiovascular system are not mediated through vascular function. However, homocysteine or folate may affect cardiovascular disease risk through other mechanisms.
Editorial Commentary
Background: It is already known from observational studies that people with high concentrations of homocysteine (an amino acid) in the blood are at increased risk of disease involving the heart and blood vessels, known as cardiovascular disease. Some randomized trials have also shown that lowering homocysteine levels decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease, but not all trials show this. The mechanisms linking homocysteine levels and cardiovascular disease are not well understood. Olthof and colleagues wanted to explore further the mechanisms linking homocysteine levels and the risk of cardiovascular disease. The investigators did a trial in healthy volunteers in which homocysteine concentrations were experimentally raised, then lowered, over short periods of time. The volunteers took a methionine supplement (an amino acid that is converted to homocysteine in the body) to raise homocysteine levels and either betaine (a dietary nutrient), serine (an amino acid), or folic acid (a B vitamin) to lower them. During the trial, the researchers then looked at how well the volunteers' arm arteries functioned, as a surrogate for measuring cardiovascular disease risk.
What this trial shows: The investigators found that functioning of the volunteers' arteries, as measured through flow-mediated dilation (FMD), was not affected by the changes in homocysteine levels that were brought about in the experiment.
Strengths and limitations: Although the number of participants analyzed in the trial was small (n = 39), it was large enough to adequately test the researchers' hypothesis. The vast majority of participants received the experimental treatment, with only one participant dropping out of the study. However, the observations were made over a short period of time, within 6 h of the experimental treatments being given. The investigators did not look at clinical outcomes, such as heart disease or stroke. Therefore, this trial does not provide evidence on whether altered homocysteine levels cause, or could be manipulated to prevent, such clinical outcomes.
Contribution to the evidence: This trial adds information on the short-term effects of changes in homocysteine levels.
PMCID: PMC1488894  PMID: 16871326
3.  Effect of Homocysteine-Lowering Treatment With Folic Acid and B Vitamins on Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in Women 
Diabetes  2009;58(8):1921-1928.
Homocysteinemia may play an etiologic role in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes by promoting oxidative stress, systemic inflammation, and endothelial dysfunction. We investigated whether homocysteine-lowering treatment by B vitamin supplementation prevents the risk of type 2 diabetes.
The Women's Antioxidant and Folic Acid Cardiovascular Study (WAFACS), a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 5,442 female health professionals aged ≥40 years with a history of cardiovascular disease (CVD) or three or more CVD risk factors, included 4,252 women free of diabetes at baseline. Participants were randomly assigned to either an active treatment group (daily intake of a combination pill of 2.5 mg folic acid, 50 mg vitamin B6, and 1 mg vitamin B12) or to the placebo group.
During a median follow-up of 7.3 years, 504 women had an incident diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Overall, there was no significant difference between the active treatment group and the placebo group in diabetes risk (relative risk 0.94 [95% CI 0.79–1.11]; P = 0.46), despite significant lowering of homocysteine levels. Also, there was no evidence for effect modifications by baseline intakes of dietary folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. In a sensitivity analysis, the null result remained for women compliant with their study pills (0.92 [0.76–1.10]; P = 0.36).
Lowering homocysteine levels by daily supplementation with folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12 did not reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes among women at high risk for CVD.
PMCID: PMC2712772  PMID: 19491213
4.  Lowering blood homocysteine with folic acid based supplements: meta-analysis of randomised trials 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1998;316(7135):894-898.
Objective: To determine the size of reduction in homocysteine concentrations produced by dietary supplementation with folic acid and with vitamins B-12 or B-6.
Design: Meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials that assessed the effects of folic acid based supplements on blood homocysteine concentrations. Multivariate regression analysis was used to determine the effects on homocysteine concentrations of different doses of folic acid and of the addition of vitamin B-12 or B-6.
Subjects: Individual data on 1114 people included in 12 trials.
Findings: The proportional and absolute reductions in blood homocysteine produced by folic acid supplements were greater at higher pretreatment blood homocysteine concentrations (P<0.001) and at lower pretreatment blood folate concentrations (P<0.001). After standardisation to pretreatment blood concentrations of homocysteine of 12 μmol/l and of folate of 12 nmol/l (approximate average concentrations for Western populations), dietary folic acid reduced blood homocysteine concentrations by 25% (95% confidence interval 23% to 28%; P<0.001), with similar effects in the range of 0.5-5 mg folic acid daily. Vitamin B-12 (mean 0.5 mg daily) produced an additional 7% (3% to 10%) reduction in blood homocysteine. Vitamin B-6 (mean 16.5 mg daily) did not have a significant additional effect.
Conclusions: Typically in Western populations, daily supplementation with both 0.5-5 mg folic acid and about 0.5 mg vitamin B-12 would be expected to reduce blood homocysteine concentrations by about a quarter to a third (for example, from about 12 μmol/l to 8-9 μmol/l). Large scale randomised trials of such regimens in high risk populations are now needed to determine whether lowering blood homocysteine concentrations reduces the risk of vascular disease.
Key messages Higher blood homocysteine concentrations seem to be associated with higher risks of occlusive vascular disease and with lower blood concentrations of folate and vitamins B-12 and B-6 Proportional and absolute reductions in blood homocysteine concentrations with folic acid supplements are greater at higher pretreatment blood homocysteine concentrations and at lower pretreatment blood folate concentrations In typical Western populations, supplementation with both 0.5-5 mg daily folic acid and about 0.5 mg daily vitamin B-12 should reduce blood homocysteine concentrations by about a quarter to a third Large scale randomised trials of such regimens in people at high risk are now needed to determine whether lowering blood homocysteine concentrations reduces the risk of vascular disease
PMCID: PMC28491  PMID: 9569395
5.  Hyperhomocysteinemia: An emerging risk factor for cardiovascular disease 
There is considerable epidemiological evidence, which confirms the importance of plasma homocysteine as a powerful predictor of future risk of coronary heart disease and other complications of atherosclerosis. Treatment of hyperhomocysteinemia varies with the underlying cause. However, an inexpensive vitamin supplementation with folic acid, vitamin B12 and vitamin B 6 is generally effective in reducing homocysteine concentrations. Several randomised, controlled trials evaluating the effects of folic acid based supplements on homocysteine concentrations have been conducted over the last decade. In most patients, folic acid alone, and in combination of vitamin B12 and B6, has been shown to reduce homocysteine concentrations within four to six weeks after the initiation of therapy (34).
However, no study has yet demonstrated that lowering of homocysteine by vitamin supplementation decreases the cardiovascular morbidity or mortality. Avoidance of excessive meat intake and increased consumption of fresh vegetables and fruits is a dietary measure, which has many health benefits, including a potential to reduce elevated homocysteine levels. The other reasonable approach is to determine levels of fasting homocysteine in high risk patients and it may be advisable to increase their intake of vitamin fortified foods and/or to suggest the daily use of supplemental vitamins. Several large scale randomised trials like Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation (HOPE-2) Study, Mcmaster University, Canada, Study of the Effectiveness of Additional Reductions in Cholesterol and Homocysteine (SERCH), Clinical Trial Service Unit, Oxford, U.K, Cambridge Heart Antioxidant Study (CHAOS-2) University of Cambridge, U.K, Bergen Vitamin Study, University of Bergen Norway, Women's Antioxidant and Cardiovascular Disease Study (WACS) Harvard Medical School, U.S.A, Prevention with a combined inhibitor and folate in Coronary Heart Disease (PACIFIC) study, University of Sydney, Australia, and many others are ongoing to assess the effect of homocysteine—lowering by vitamin supplementation on risk of vascular disease.
PMCID: PMC3453741  PMID: 23105365
6.  Folic Acid and Vitamins D and B12 Correlate With Homocysteine in Chinese Patients With Type-2 Diabetes Mellitus, Hypertension, or Cardiovascular Disease 
Medicine  2016;95(6):e2652.
Elevated serum homocysteine has been shown to be a risk factor for hypertension, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and type-2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM).
We characterized the relationships between the serum levels of homocysteine, folic acid, and vitamins D2, D3, and B12 in patients with T2DM, CVD, and hypertension in Shanghai, China. The levels of these serum biochemical markers were determined for 9311 Chinese patients (mean age: 79.50 ± 13.26 years) with T2DM (N = 839), hypertension (N = 490), or CVD (N = 7925). The demographic and serum biochemical data were compared using an analysis of variance. We performed stratified analyses using Pearson linear regression to investigate correlations between the different variables in the T2DM, CVD, and hypertension groups and in patients aged < 50, 50 to 64, 65 to 80, and ≥80 years. A subgroup analysis was also performed to identify correlations between the serum biochemical markers. Stratified chi-squared analyses were performed based on the levels of folic acid and total vitamin D.
In all 3 patient groups, elevated levels of vitamin D2 and homocysteine were observed, whereas the levels of folic acid and vitamins D3 and B12 were lower than the reference range for each serum marker (P < 0.05 for all). The linear regression and stratified analyses showed that the highest levels of folic acid and vitamins D2 and D3 correlated with the lowest level of homocysteine in T2DM, CVD, and hypertension patients (P < 0.05 for all), whereas the highest level of vitamin B12 correlated with a lowest level of homocysteine in CVD patients only (P < 0.05).
Our results indicate that the contributions of both vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 should be considered in investigations of the effects of vitamin D supplements in T2DM, CVD, and hypertension patients. Our findings warrant future studies of the benefits of vitamin D and folic acid supplements for reducing the risk of T2DM, CVD, and hypertension in elderly Chinese people, as well as the benefits of vitamin B12 supplements for reducing the risk of CVD alone.
PMCID: PMC4753885  PMID: 26871790
7.  The role of Homocysteine as a predictor for coronary heart disease 
Background and objective
There is an ongoing debate on the role of the cytotoxic aminoacid homocysteine as a causal risk factor for the development of coronary heart disease. Results from multiple case control-studies demonstrate, that there is a strong association between high plasma levels of homoysteine and prevalent coronary heart disease, independent of other classic risk factors. Furthermore, results from interventional studies point out that elevated plasma levels of homocysteine may effectively be lowered by the intake of folic acid and B vitamins. In order to use this information for the construction of a new preventive strategy against coronary heart disease, more information is needed: first, whether homocysteine actually is a causal risk factor with relevant predictive properties and, second, whether by lowering elevated homocysteine plasma concentrations cardiac morbidity can be reduced. Currently in Germany the determination of homocysteine plasma levels is reimbursed for by statutory health insurance in patients with manifest coronary heart disease and in patients at high risk for coronary heart disease but not for screening purposes in asymptomatic low risk populations.
Against this background the following assessment sets out to answer four questions:
Is an elevated homocysteine plasma concentration a strong, consistent and independent (of other classic risk factors) predictor for coronary heart disease?Does a therapeutic lowering of elevated homoysteine plasma levels reduce the risk of developing coronary events?What is the cost-effectiveness relationship of homocysteine testing for preventive purposes?Are there morally, socially or legally relevant aspects that should be considered when implementing a preventive strategy as outlined above?
In order to answer the first question, a systematic overview of prospective studies and metaanalyses of prospective studies is undertaken. Studies are included that analyse the association of homocysteine plasma levels with future cardiac events in probands without pre-existing coronary heart disease or in population-based samples. To answer the second question, a systematic overview of the literature is prepared, including randomised controlled trials and systematic reviews of randomised controlled trials that determine the effectiveness of homocysteine lowering therapy for the prevention of cardiac events. To answer the third question, economic evaluations of homocysteine testing for preventive purposes are analysed. Methodological quality of all materials is assessed by widely accepted instruments, evidence was summarized qualitatively.
For the first question eleven systematic reviews and 33 single studies (prospective cohort studies and nested case control studies) are available. Among the studies there is profound heterogeneity concercing study populations, classification of exposure (homocysteine measurements, units to express “elevation”), outcome definition and measurement, as well as controlling for confounding (qualitatively and quantitatively). Taking these heterogeneities into consideration, metaanalysis of single patient data with controlling for multiple confounders seems to be the only adequate method of summarizing the results of single studies. The only available analysis of this type shows, that in otherwise healthy people homocysteine plasma levels are only a very weak predictor of future cardiac events. The predictive value of the classical risk factors is much stronger. Among the studies that actively exclude patients with pre-existing coronary heart disease, there are no reports of an association between elevated homocysteine plasma levels and future cardiac events.
Eleven randomized controlled trials (ten of them reported in one systematic review) are analysed in order to answer the second question. All trials include high risk populations for the development of (further) cardiac events. These studies also present with marked clinical heterogeneity: primarily concerning the average homocysteine plasma levels at baseline, type and mode of outcome measurement and as study duration. Except for one, none of the trials shows a risk reduction for cardiac events by lowering homocysteine plasma levels with folate or B vitamins. These results also hold for predefined subgroups with markedly elevated homocysteine plasma levels.
In order to answer the third questions, three economic evaluations (modelling studies) of homocysteine testing are available. All economic models are based on the assumption that lowering homocysteine plasma levels results in risk reduction for cardiac events. Since this assumption is falsified by the results of the interventional studies cited above, there is no evidence left to answer the third question.
Morally, socially or legally relevant aspects of homocysteine assessment are currently not being discussed in the scientific literature.
Discussion and conclusion
Many currently available pieces of evidence contradict a causal role of homocysteine in the pathogenesis of coronary heart disease. Arguing with the Bradford-Hill criteria at least the criterion of time-sequence (that exposure has to happen before the outcome is measured), the criterion of a strong and consistent association and the criterion of reversibility are not fulfilled. Therefore, homocysteine may, if at all, play a role as a risk indicator but not as risk factor.
Furthermore, currently available evidence does not imply that for the prevention of coronary heart disease, knowledge of homocysteine plasma levels provides any information that supersedes the information gathered from the examination of classical risk factors. So, currently for the indication of prevention, there is no evidence that homocysteine testing provides any benefit. Against this background there is also no basis for cost-effectiveness calculations.
Further basic research should clarify the discrepant results of case control studies and prospective studies. Maybe there is a third parameter (confounder) associated with homocysteine metabolism as well with coronary heart disease. Further epidemiological research could elucidate the role of elevated homocysteine plasma levels as a risk indicator or prognostic indicator in patients with pre-existing coronary heart disease taking into consideration the classical risk factors.
PMCID: PMC3011327  PMID: 21289945
8.  Antiplatelet therapy and the effects of B vitamins in patients with previous stroke or transient ischaemic attack: a post-hoc subanalysis of VITATOPS, a randomised, placebo-controlled trial 
Lancet Neurology  2012;11(6):512-520.
Previous studies have suggested that any benefits of folic acid-based therapy to lower serum homocysteine in prevention of cardiovascular events might be offset by concomitant use of antiplatelet therapy. We aimed to establish whether there is an interaction between antiplatelet therapy and the effects of folic acid-based homocysteine-lowering therapy on major vascular events in patients with stroke or transient ischaemic attack enrolled in the vitamins to prevent stroke (VITATOPS) trial.
In the VITATOPS trial, 8164 patients with recent stroke or transient ischaemic attack were randomly allocated to double-blind treatment with one tablet daily of placebo or B vitamins (2 mg folic acid, 25 mg vitamin B6, and 500 μg vitamin B12) and followed up for a median 3·4 years (IQR 2·0–5·5) for the primary composite outcome of stroke, myocardial infarction, or death from vascular causes. In our post-hoc analysis of the interaction between antiplatelet therapy and the effects of treatment with B vitamins on the primary outcome, we used Cox proportional hazards regression before and after adjusting for imbalances in baseline prognostic factors in participants who were and were not taking antiplatelet drugs at baseline and in participants assigned to receive B vitamins or placebo. We also assessed the interaction in different subgroups of patients and different secondary outcomes. The VITATOPS trial is registered with, number NCT00097669, and Current Controlled Trials, number ISRCTN74743444.
At baseline, 6609 patients were taking antiplatelet therapy and 1463 were not. Patients not receiving antiplatelet therapy were more likely to be younger, east Asian, and disabled, to have a haemorrhagic stroke or cardioembolic ischaemic stroke, and to have a history of hypertension or atrial fibrillation. They were less likely to be smokers and to have a history of peripheral artery disease, hypercholesterolaemia, diabetes, ischaemic heart disease, and a revascularisation procedure. Of the participants taking antiplatelet drugs at baseline, B vitamins had no significant effect on the primary outcome (488 patients in the B-vitamins group [15%] vs 519 in the placebo group [16%]; hazard ratio [HR] 0·94, 95% CI 0·83–1·07). By contrast, of the participants not taking antiplatelet drugs at baseline, B vitamins had a significant effect on the primary outcome (123 in the B-vitamins group [17%] vs 153 in the placebo group [21%]; HR 0·76, 0·60–0·96). The interaction between antiplatelet therapy and the effect of B vitamins on the primary outcome was significant after adjusting for imbalance in the baseline variables (adjusted p for interaction=0·0204).
Our findings support the hypothesis that antiplatelet therapy modifies the potential benefits of lowering homocysteine with B-vitamin supplementation in the secondary prevention of major vascular events. If validated, B vitamins might have a role in the prevention of ischaemic events in high-risk individuals with an allergy, intolerance, or lack of indication for antiplatelet therapy.
Australia National Health and Medical Research Council, UK Medical Research Council, Singapore Biomedical Research Council, and Singapore National Medical Research Council.
PMCID: PMC3361667  PMID: 22554931
9.  Status of B-Vitamins and Homocysteine in Diabetic Retinopathy: Association with Vitamin-B12 Deficiency and Hyperhomocysteinemia 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e26747.
Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a common cause of blindness. Although many studies have indicated an association between homocysteine and DR, the results so far have been equivocal. Amongst the many determinants of homocysteine, B-vitamin status was shown to be a major confounding factor, yet very little is known about its relationship to DR. In the present study, we, therefore, investigated the status of B-vitamins and homocysteine in DR. A cross-sectional case–control study was conducted with 100 normal control (CN) subjects and 300 subjects with type-2 diabetes (T2D). Of the 300 subjects with T2D, 200 had retinopathy (DR) and 100 did not (DNR). After a complete ophthalmic examination including fundus fluorescein angiography, the clinical profile and the blood levels of all B-vitamins and homocysteine were analyzed. While mean plasma homocysteine levels were found to be higher in T2D patients compared with CN subjects, homocysteine levels were particularly high in the DR group. There were no group differences in the blood levels of vitamins B1 and B2. Although the plasma vitamin-B6 and folic acid levels were significantly lower in the DNR and DR groups compared with the CN group, there were no significant differences between the diabetes groups. Interestingly, plasma vitamin-B12 levels were found to be significantly lower in the diabetes groups compared with the CN group; further, the levels were significantly lower in the DR group compared with the DNR group. Higher homocysteine levels were significantly associated with lower vitamin-B12 and folic acid but not with other B-vitamins. Additionally, hyperhomocysteinemia and vitamin-B12 deficiency did not seem to be related to subjects' age, body mass index, or duration of diabetes. These results thus suggest a possible association between vitamin-B12 deficiency and hyperhomocysteinemia in DR. Further, the data indicate that vitamin-B12 deficiency could be an independent risk factor for DR.
PMCID: PMC3206053  PMID: 22069468
10.  Folic Acid: A Marker of Endothelial Function in Type 2 Diabetes? 
Endothelial dysfunction is a common feature of type 2 diabetes. Recent studies suggest that the B-vitamin folic acid exerts direct beneficial effects on endothelial function, beyond the well known homocysteine lowering effects. Therefore, folic acid might represent a novel “biomarker” of endothelial function. We sought to determine whether plasma levels of folic acid determine endothelial-dependent vasodilation in patients with type 2 diabetes.
Forearm arterial blood flow (FABF) was measured at baseline and during intrabrachial infusion of the endothelial-dependent vasodilator acetylcholine (15 μg/min) and the endothelial-independent vasodilator sodium nitroprusside (2 μg/min) in 26 type 2 diabetic patients (age 56.5 ± 0.9 years, means ± SEM) with no history of cardiovascular disease.
FABF ratio (ie, the ratio between the infused and control forearm FABF) significantly increased during acetylcholine (1.10 ± 0.04 vs 1.52 ± 0.07, p < 0.001) and sodium nitroprusside (1.12 ± 0.11 vs 1.62 ± 0.06, p < 0.001) infusions. After correcting for age, gender, diabetes duration, smoking, hypertension, body mass index, microalbuminuria, glycated hemoglobin, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and homocysteine, multiple regression analysis showed that plasma folic acid concentration was the only independent determinant (p = 0.037, R2 = 0.22) of acetylcholine-mediated, but not sodium nitroprusside-mediated, vasodilatation.
Folic acid plasma concentrations determine endothelium-mediated vasodilatation in patients with type 2 diabetes. These results support the hypothesis of a direct effect of folic acid on endothelial function and the rationale for interventions aimed at increasing folic acid levels to reduce cardiovascular risk.
PMCID: PMC1993928  PMID: 17319100
folic acid; homocysteine; endothelium; type 2 diabetes
11.  Clinical Utility of Vitamin D Testing 
Executive Summary
This report from the Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) was intended to evaluate the clinical utility of vitamin D testing in average risk Canadians and in those with kidney disease. As a separate analysis, this report also includes a systematic literature review of the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in these two subgroups.
This evaluation did not set out to determine the serum vitamin D thresholds that might apply to non-bone health outcomes. For bone health outcomes, no high or moderate quality evidence could be found to support a target serum level above 50 nmol/L. Similarly, no high or moderate quality evidence could be found to support vitamin D’s effects in non-bone health outcomes, other than falls.
Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a lipid soluble vitamin that acts as a hormone. It stimulates intestinal calcium absorption and is important in maintaining adequate phosphate levels for bone mineralization, bone growth, and remodelling. It’s also believed to be involved in the regulation of cell growth proliferation and apoptosis (programmed cell death), as well as modulation of the immune system and other functions. Alone or in combination with calcium, Vitamin D has also been shown to reduce the risk of fractures in elderly men (≥ 65 years), postmenopausal women, and the risk of falls in community-dwelling seniors. However, in a comprehensive systematic review, inconsistent results were found concerning the effects of vitamin D in conditions such as cancer, all-cause mortality, and cardiovascular disease. In fact, no high or moderate quality evidence could be found concerning the effects of vitamin D in such non-bone health outcomes. Given the uncertainties surrounding the effects of vitamin D in non-bone health related outcomes, it was decided that this evaluation should focus on falls and the effects of vitamin D in bone health and exclusively within average-risk individuals and patients with kidney disease.
Synthesis of vitamin D occurs naturally in the skin through exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation from sunlight, but it can also be obtained from dietary sources including fortified foods, and supplements. Foods rich in vitamin D include fatty fish, egg yolks, fish liver oil, and some types of mushrooms. Since it is usually difficult to obtain sufficient vitamin D from non-fortified foods, either due to low content or infrequent use, most vitamin D is obtained from fortified foods, exposure to sunlight, and supplements.
Clinical Need: Condition and Target Population
Vitamin D deficiency may lead to rickets in infants and osteomalacia in adults. Factors believed to be associated with vitamin D deficiency include:
darker skin pigmentation,
winter season,
living at higher latitudes,
skin coverage,
kidney disease,
malabsorption syndromes such as Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and
genetic factors.
Patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) are at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency due to either renal losses or decreased synthesis of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D.
Health Canada currently recommends that, until the daily recommended intakes (DRI) for vitamin D are updated, Canada’s Food Guide (Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide) should be followed with respect to vitamin D intake. Issued in 2007, the Guide recommends that Canadians consume two cups (500 ml) of fortified milk or fortified soy beverages daily in order to obtain a daily intake of 200 IU. In addition, men and women over the age of 50 should take 400 IU of vitamin D supplements daily. Additional recommendations were made for breastfed infants.
A Canadian survey evaluated the median vitamin D intake derived from diet alone (excluding supplements) among 35,000 Canadians, 10,900 of which were from Ontario. Among Ontarian males ages 9 and up, the median daily dietary vitamin D intake ranged between 196 IU and 272 IU per day. Among females, it varied from 152 IU to 196 IU per day. In boys and girls ages 1 to 3, the median daily dietary vitamin D intake was 248 IU, while among those 4 to 8 years it was 224 IU.
Vitamin D Testing
Two laboratory tests for vitamin D are available, 25-hydroxy vitamin D, referred to as 25(OH)D, and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D. Vitamin D status is assessed by measuring the serum 25(OH)D levels, which can be assayed using radioimmunoassays, competitive protein-binding assays (CPBA), high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC), and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). These may yield different results with inter-assay variation reaching up to 25% (at lower serum levels) and intra-assay variation reaching 10%.
The optimal serum concentration of vitamin D has not been established and it may change across different stages of life. Similarly, there is currently no consensus on target serum vitamin D levels. There does, however, appear to be a consensus on the definition of vitamin D deficiency at 25(OH)D < 25 nmol/l, which is based on the risk of diseases such as rickets and osteomalacia. Higher target serum levels have also been proposed based on subclinical endpoints such as parathyroid hormone (PTH). Therefore, in this report, two conservative target serum levels have been adopted, 25 nmol/L (based on the risk of rickets and osteomalacia), and 40 to 50 nmol/L (based on vitamin D’s interaction with PTH).
Ontario Context
Volume & Cost
The volume of vitamin D tests done in Ontario has been increasing over the past 5 years with a steep increase of 169,000 tests in 2007 to more than 393,400 tests in 2008. The number of tests continues to rise with the projected number of tests for 2009 exceeding 731,000. According to the Ontario Schedule of Benefits, the billing cost of each test is $51.7 for 25(OH)D (L606, 100 LMS units, $0.517/unit) and $77.6 for 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (L605, 150 LMS units, $0.517/unit). Province wide, the total annual cost of vitamin D testing has increased from approximately $1.7M in 2004 to over $21.0M in 2008. The projected annual cost for 2009 is approximately $38.8M.
Evidence-Based Analysis
The objective of this report is to evaluate the clinical utility of vitamin D testing in the average risk population and in those with kidney disease. As a separate analysis, the report also sought to evaluate the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canada. The specific research questions addressed were thus:
What is the clinical utility of vitamin D testing in the average risk population and in subjects with kidney disease?
What is the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in the average risk population in Canada?
What is the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in patients with kidney disease in Canada?
Clinical utility was defined as the ability to improve bone health outcomes with the focus on the average risk population (excluding those with osteoporosis) and patients with kidney disease.
Literature Search
A literature search was performed on July 17th, 2009 using OVID MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, EMBASE, the Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), the Cochrane Library, and the International Agency for Health Technology Assessment (INAHTA) for studies published from January 1, 1998 until July 17th, 2009. Abstracts were reviewed by a single reviewer and, for those studies meeting the eligibility criteria, full-text articles were obtained. Reference lists were also examined for any additional relevant studies not identified through the search. Articles with unknown eligibility were reviewed with a second clinical epidemiologist, then a group of epidemiologists until consensus was established. The quality of evidence was assessed as high, moderate, low or very low according to GRADE methodology.
Observational studies that evaluated the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canada in the population of interest were included based on the inclusion and exclusion criteria listed below. The baseline values were used in this report in the case of interventional studies that evaluated the effect of vitamin D intake on serum levels. Studies published in grey literature were included if no studies published in the peer-reviewed literature were identified for specific outcomes or subgroups.
Considering that vitamin D status may be affected by factors such as latitude, sun exposure, food fortification, among others, the search focused on prevalence studies published in Canada. In cases where no Canadian prevalence studies were identified, the decision was made to include studies from the United States, given the similar policies in vitamin D food fortification and recommended daily intake.
Inclusion Criteria
Studies published in English
Publications that reported the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canada
Studies that included subjects from the general population or with kidney disease
Studies in children or adults
Studies published between January 1998 and July 17th 2009
Exclusion Criteria
Studies that included subjects defined according to a specific disease other than kidney disease
Letters, comments, and editorials
Studies that measured the serum vitamin D levels but did not report the percentage of subjects with serum levels below a given threshold
Outcomes of Interest
Prevalence of serum vitamin D less than 25 nmol/L
Prevalence of serum vitamin D less than 40 to 50 nmol/L
Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D was the metabolite used to assess vitamin D status. Results from adult and children studies were reported separately. Subgroup analyses according to factors that affect serum vitamin D levels (e.g., seasonal effects, skin pigmentation, and vitamin D intake) were reported if enough information was provided in the studies
Quality of Evidence
The quality of the prevalence studies was based on the method of subject recruitment and sampling, possibility of selection bias, and generalizability to the source population. The overall quality of the trials was examined according to the GRADE Working Group criteria.
Summary of Findings
Fourteen prevalence studies examining Canadian adults and children met the eligibility criteria. With the exception of one longitudinal study, the studies had a cross-sectional design. Two studies were conducted among Canadian adults with renal disease but none studied Canadian children with renal disease (though three such US studies were included). No systematic reviews or health technology assessments that evaluated the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canada were identified. Two studies were published in grey literature, consisting of a Canadian survey designed to measure serum vitamin D levels and a study in infants presented as an abstract at a conference. Also included were the results of vitamin D tests performed in community laboratories in Ontario between October 2008 and September 2009 (provided by the Ontario Association of Medical Laboratories).
Different threshold levels were used in the studies, thus we reported the percentage of subjects with serum levels of between 25 and 30 nmol/L and between 37.5 and 50 nmol/L. Some studies stratified the results according to factors affecting vitamin D status and two used multivariate models to investigate the effects of these characteristics (including age, season, BMI, vitamin D intake, skin pigmentation, and season) on serum 25(OH)D levels. It’s unclear, however, if these studies were adequately powered for these subgroup analyses.
Study participants generally consisted of healthy, community-dwelling subjects and most excluded individuals with conditions or medications that alter vitamin D or bone metabolism, such as kidney or liver disease. Although the studies were conducted in different parts of Canada, fewer were performed in Northern latitudes, i.e. above 53°N, which is equivalent to the city of Edmonton.
Serum vitamin D levels of < 25 to 30 nmol/L were observed in 0% to 25.5% of the subjects included in five studies; the weighted average was 3.8% (95% CI: 3.0, 4.6). The preliminary results of the Canadian survey showed that approximately 5% of the subjects had serum levels below 29.5 nmol/L. The results of over 600,000 vitamin D tests performed in Ontarian community laboratories between October 2008 and September 2009 showed that 2.6% of adults (> 18 years) had serum levels < 25 nmol/L.
The prevalence of serum vitamin D levels below 37.5-50 nmol/L reported among studies varied widely, ranging from 8% to 73.6% with a weighted average of 22.5%. The preliminary results of the CHMS survey showed that between 10% and 25% of subjects had serum levels below 37 to 48 nmol/L. The results of the vitamin D tests performed in community laboratories showed that 10% to 25% of the individuals had serum levels between 39 and 50 nmol/L.
In an attempt to explain this inter-study variation, the study results were stratified according to factors affecting serum vitamin D levels, as summarized below. These results should be interpreted with caution as none were adjusted for other potential confounders. Adequately powered multivariate analyses would be necessary to determine the contribution of risk factors to lower serum 25(OH)D levels.
Seasonal variation
Three adult studies evaluating serum vitamin D levels in different seasons observed a trend towards a higher prevalence of serum levels < 37.5 to 50 nmol/L during the winter and spring months, specifically 21% to 39%, compared to 8% to 14% in the summer. The weighted average was 23.6% over the winter/spring months and 9.6% over summer. The difference between the seasons was not statistically significant in one study and not reported in the other two studies.
Skin Pigmentation
Four studies observed a trend toward a higher prevalence of serum vitamin D levels < 37.5 to 50 nmol/L in subjects with darker skin pigmentation compared to those with lighter skin pigmentation, with weighted averages of 46.8% among adults with darker skin colour and 15.9% among those with fairer skin.
Vitamin D intake and serum levels
Four adult studies evaluated serum vitamin D levels according to vitamin D intake and showed an overall trend toward a lower prevalence of serum levels < 37.5 to 50 nmol/L with higher levels of vitamin D intake. One study observed a dose-response relationship between higher vitamin D intake from supplements, diet (milk), and sun exposure (results not adjusted for other variables). It was observed that subjects taking 50 to 400 IU or > 400 IU of vitamin D per day had a 6% and 3% prevalence of serum vitamin D level < 40 nmol/L, respectively, versus 29% in subjects not on vitamin D supplementation. Similarly, among subjects drinking one or two glasses of milk per day, the prevalence of serum vitamin D levels < 40 nmol/L was found to be 15%, versus 6% in those who drink more than two glasses of milk per day and 21% among those who do not drink milk. On the other hand, one study observed little variation in serum vitamin D levels during winter according to milk intake, with the proportion of subjects exhibiting vitamin D levels of < 40 nmol/L being 21% among those drinking 0-2 glasses per day, 26% among those drinking > 2 glasses, and 20% among non-milk drinkers.
The overall quality of evidence for the studies conducted among adults was deemed to be low, although it was considered moderate for the subgroups of skin pigmentation and seasonal variation.
Newborn, Children and Adolescents
Five Canadian studies evaluated serum vitamin D levels in newborns, children, and adolescents. In four of these, it was found that between 0 and 36% of children exhibited deficiency across age groups with a weighted average of 6.4%. The results of over 28,000 vitamin D tests performed in children 0 to 18 years old in Ontario laboratories (Oct. 2008 to Sept. 2009) showed that 4.4% had serum levels of < 25 nmol/L.
According to two studies, 32% of infants 24 to 30 months old and 35.3% of newborns had serum vitamin D levels of < 50 nmol/L. Two studies of children 2 to 16 years old reported that 24.5% and 34% had serum vitamin D levels below 37.5 to 40 nmol/L. In both studies, older children exhibited a higher prevalence than younger children, with weighted averages 34.4% and 10.3%, respectively. The overall weighted average of the prevalence of serum vitamin D levels < 37.5 to 50 nmol/L among pediatric studies was 25.8%. The preliminary results of the Canadian survey showed that between 10% and 25% of subjects between 6 and 11 years (N= 435) had serum levels below 50 nmol/L, while for those 12 to 19 years, 25% to 50% exhibited serum vitamin D levels below 50 nmol/L.
The effects of season, skin pigmentation, and vitamin D intake were not explored in Canadian pediatric studies. A Canadian surveillance study did, however, report 104 confirmed cases1 (2.9 cases per 100,000 children) of vitamin D-deficient rickets among Canadian children age 1 to 18 between 2002 and 2004, 57 (55%) of which from Ontario. The highest incidence occurred among children living in the North, i.e., the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. In 92 (89%) cases, skin pigmentation was categorized as intermediate to dark, 98 (94%) had been breastfed, and 25 (24%) were offspring of immigrants to Canada. There were no cases of rickets in children receiving ≥ 400 IU VD supplementation/day.
Overall, the quality of evidence of the studies of children was considered very low.
Kidney Disease
Two studies evaluated serum vitamin D levels in Canadian adults with kidney disease. The first included 128 patients with chronic kidney disease stages 3 to 5, 38% of which had serum vitamin D levels of < 37.5 nmol/L (measured between April and July). This is higher than what was reported in Canadian studies of the general population during the summer months (i.e. between 8% and 14%). In the second, which examined 419 subjects who had received a renal transplantation (mean time since transplantation: 7.2 ± 6.4 years), the prevalence of serum vitamin D levels < 40 nmol/L was 27.3%. The authors concluded that the prevalence observed in the study population was similar to what is expected in the general population.
No studies evaluating serum vitamin D levels in Canadian pediatric patients with kidney disease could be identified, although three such US studies among children with chronic kidney disease stages 1 to 5 were. The mean age varied between 10.7 and 12.5 years in two studies but was not reported in the third. Across all three studies, the prevalence of serum vitamin D levels below the range of 37.5 to 50 nmol/L varied between 21% and 39%, which is not considerably different from what was observed in studies of healthy Canadian children (24% to 35%).
Overall, the quality of evidence in adults and children with kidney disease was considered very low.
Clinical Utility of Vitamin D Testing
A high quality comprehensive systematic review published in August 2007 evaluated the association between serum vitamin D levels and different bone health outcomes in different age groups. A total of 72 studies were included. The authors observed that there was a trend towards improvement in some bone health outcomes with higher serum vitamin D levels. Nevertheless, precise thresholds for improved bone health outcomes could not be defined across age groups. Further, no new studies on the association were identified during an updated systematic review on vitamin D published in July 2009.
With regards to non-bone health outcomes, there is no high or even moderate quality evidence that supports the effectiveness of vitamin D in outcomes such as cancer, cardiovascular outcomes, and all-cause mortality. Even if there is any residual uncertainty, there is no evidence that testing vitamin D levels encourages adherence to Health Canada’s guidelines for vitamin D intake. A normal serum vitamin D threshold required to prevent non-bone health related conditions cannot be resolved until a causal effect or correlation has been demonstrated between vitamin D levels and these conditions. This is as an ongoing research issue around which there is currently too much uncertainty to base any conclusions that would support routine vitamin D testing.
For patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD), there is again no high or moderate quality evidence supporting improved outcomes through the use of calcitriol or vitamin D analogs. In the absence of such data, the authors of the guidelines for CKD patients consider it best practice to maintain serum calcium and phosphate at normal levels, while supplementation with active vitamin D should be considered if serum PTH levels are elevated. As previously stated, the authors of guidelines for CKD patients believe that there is not enough evidence to support routine vitamin D [25(OH)D] testing. According to what is stated in the guidelines, decisions regarding the commencement or discontinuation of treatment with calcitriol or vitamin D analogs should be based on serum PTH, calcium, and phosphate levels.
Limitations associated with the evidence of vitamin D testing include ambiguities in the definition of an ‘adequate threshold level’ and both inter- and intra- assay variability. The MAS considers both the lack of a consensus on the target serum vitamin D levels and assay limitations directly affect and undermine the clinical utility of testing. The evidence supporting the clinical utility of vitamin D testing is thus considered to be of very low quality.
Daily vitamin D intake, either through diet or supplementation, should follow Health Canada’s recommendations for healthy individuals of different age groups. For those with medical conditions such as renal disease, liver disease, and malabsorption syndromes, and for those taking medications that may affect vitamin D absorption/metabolism, physician guidance should be followed with respect to both vitamin D testing and supplementation.
Studies indicate that vitamin D, alone or in combination with calcium, may decrease the risk of fractures and falls among older adults.
There is no high or moderate quality evidence to support the effectiveness of vitamin D in other outcomes such as cancer, cardiovascular outcomes, and all-cause mortality.
Studies suggest that the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canadian adults and children is relatively low (approximately 5%), and between 10% and 25% have serum levels below 40 to 50 nmol/L (based on very low to low grade evidence).
Given the limitations associated with serum vitamin D measurement, ambiguities in the definition of a ‘target serum level’, and the availability of clear guidelines on vitamin D supplementation from Health Canada, vitamin D testing is not warranted for the average risk population.
Health Canada has issued recommendations regarding the adequate daily intake of vitamin D, but current studies suggest that the mean dietary intake is below these recommendations. Accordingly, Health Canada’s guidelines and recommendations should be promoted.
Based on a moderate level of evidence, individuals with darker skin pigmentation appear to have a higher risk of low serum vitamin D levels than those with lighter skin pigmentation and therefore may need to be specially targeted with respect to optimum vitamin D intake. The cause-effect of this association is currently unclear.
Individuals with medical conditions such as renal and liver disease, osteoporosis, and malabsorption syndromes, as well as those taking medications that may affect vitamin D absorption/metabolism, should follow their physician’s guidance concerning both vitamin D testing and supplementation.
PMCID: PMC3377517  PMID: 23074397
12.  Effect of Homocysteine-Lowering Nutrients on Blood Lipids: Results from Four Randomised, Placebo-Controlled Studies in Healthy Humans 
PLoS Medicine  2005;2(5):e135.
Betaine (trimethylglycine) lowers plasma homocysteine, a possible risk factor for cardiovascular disease. However, studies in renal patients and in obese individuals who are on a weight-loss diet suggest that betaine supplementation raises blood cholesterol; data in healthy individuals are lacking. Such an effect on cholesterol would counteract any favourable effect on homocysteine. We therefore investigated the effect of betaine, of its precursor choline in the form of phosphatidylcholine, and of the classical homocysteine-lowering vitamin folic acid on blood lipid concentrations in healthy humans.
Methods and Findings
We measured blood lipids in four placebo-controlled, randomised intervention studies that examined the effect of betaine (three studies, n = 151), folic acid (two studies, n = 75), and phosphatidylcholine (one study, n = 26) on plasma homocysteine concentrations. We combined blood lipid data from the individual studies and calculated a weighted mean change in blood lipid concentrations relative to placebo. Betaine supplementation (6 g/d) for 6 wk increased blood LDL cholesterol concentrations by 0.36 mmol/l (95% confidence interval: 0.25–0.46), and triacylglycerol concentrations by 0.14 mmol/l (0.04–0.23) relative to placebo. The ratio of total to HDL cholesterol increased by 0.23 (0.14–0.32). Concentrations of HDL cholesterol were not affected. Doses of betaine lower than 6 g/d also raised LDL cholesterol, but these changes were not statistically significant. Further, the effect of betaine on LDL cholesterol was already evident after 2 wk of intervention. Phosphatidylcholine supplementation (providing approximately 2.6 g/d of choline) for 2 wk increased triacylglycerol concentrations by 0.14 mmol/l (0.06–0.21), but did not affect cholesterol concentrations. Folic acid supplementation (0.8 mg/d) had no effect on lipid concentrations.
Betaine supplementation increased blood LDL cholesterol and triacylglycerol concentrations in healthy humans, which agrees with the limited previous data. The adverse effects on blood lipids may undo the potential benefits for cardiovascular health of betaine supplementation through homocysteine lowering. In our study phosphatidylcholine supplementation slightly increased triacylglycerol concentrations in healthy humans. Previous studies of phosphatidylcholine and blood lipids showed no clear effect. Thus the effect of phosphatidylcholine supplementation on blood lipids remains inconclusive, but is probably not large.
Folic acid supplementation does not seem to affect blood lipids and therefore remains the preferred treatment for lowering of blood homocysteine concentrations.
Lowering homocysteine might reduce the risk for heart disease. Betaine seems to have an adverse effect on blood lipids. This would make it less suitable than folic acid, which does not affect blood lipids.
PMCID: PMC1140947  PMID: 15916468
13.  Homocysteine and Coronary Heart Disease: Meta-analysis of MTHFR Case-Control Studies, Avoiding Publication Bias 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(2):e1001177.
Robert Clarke and colleagues conduct a meta-analysis of unpublished datasets to examine the causal relationship between elevation of homocysteine levels in the blood and the risk of coronary heart disease. Their data suggest that an increase in homocysteine levels is not likely to result in an increase in risk of coronary heart disease.
Moderately elevated blood levels of homocysteine are weakly correlated with coronary heart disease (CHD) risk, but causality remains uncertain. When folate levels are low, the TT genotype of the common C677T polymorphism (rs1801133) of the methylene tetrahydrofolate reductase gene (MTHFR) appreciably increases homocysteine levels, so “Mendelian randomization” studies using this variant as an instrumental variable could help test causality.
Methods and Findings
Nineteen unpublished datasets were obtained (total 48,175 CHD cases and 67,961 controls) in which multiple genetic variants had been measured, including MTHFR C677T. These datasets did not include measurements of blood homocysteine, but homocysteine levels would be expected to be about 20% higher with TT than with CC genotype in the populations studied. In meta-analyses of these unpublished datasets, the case-control CHD odds ratio (OR) and 95% CI comparing TT versus CC homozygotes was 1.02 (0.98–1.07; p = 0.28) overall, and 1.01 (0.95–1.07) in unsupplemented low-folate populations. By contrast, in a slightly updated meta-analysis of the 86 published studies (28,617 CHD cases and 41,857 controls), the OR was 1.15 (1.09–1.21), significantly discrepant (p = 0.001) with the OR in the unpublished datasets. Within the meta-analysis of published studies, the OR was 1.12 (1.04–1.21) in the 14 larger studies (those with variance of log OR<0.05; total 13,119 cases) and 1.18 (1.09–1.28) in the 72 smaller ones (total 15,498 cases).
The CI for the overall result from large unpublished datasets shows lifelong moderate homocysteine elevation has little or no effect on CHD. The discrepant overall result from previously published studies reflects publication bias or methodological problems.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of death among adults in developed countries. With age, fatty deposits (atherosclerotic plaques) coat the walls of the coronary arteries, the blood vessels that supply the heart with oxygen and nutrients. The resultant restriction of the heart's blood supply causes shortness of breath, angina (chest pains that are usually relieved by rest), and sometimes fatal heart attacks. Many established risk factors for CHD, including smoking, physical inactivity, being overweight, and eating a fat-rich diet, can be modified by lifestyle changes. Another possible modifiable risk factor for CHD is a high blood level of the amino acid homocysteine. Methylene tetrahydofolate reductase, which is encoded by the MTHFR gene, uses folate to break down and remove homocysteine so fortification of cereals with folate can reduce population homocysteine blood levels. Pooled results from prospective observational studies that have looked for an association between homocysteine levels and later development of CHD suggest that the reduction in homocysteine levels that can be achieved by folate supplementation is associated with an 11% lower CHD risk.
Why Was This Study Done?
Prospective observational studies cannot prove that high homocysteine levels cause CHD because of confounding, the potential presence of other unknown shared characteristics that really cause CHD. However, an approach called “Mendelian randomization” can test whether high blood homocysteine causes CHD. A common genetic variant of the MTHFR gene—the C677T polymorphism—reduces MTHFR efficiency so TT homozygotes (individuals in whom both copies of the MTHFR gene have the nucleotide thymine at position 677; the human genome contains two copies of most genes) have 25% higher blood homocysteine levels than CC homozygotes. In meta-analyses (statistical pooling of the results of several studies) of published Mendelian randomized studies, TT homozygotes have a higher CHD risk than CC homozygotes. Because gene variants are inherited randomly, they are not subject to confounding, so this result suggests that high blood homocysteine causes CHD. But what if only Mendelian randomization studies that found an association have been published? Such publication bias would affect this aggregate result. Here, the researchers investigate the association of the MTHFR C677T polymorphism with CHD in unpublished datasets that have analyzed this polymorphism incidentally during other genetic studies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers obtained 19 unpublished datasets that contained data on the MTHFR C677T polymorphism in thousands of people with and without CHD. Meta-analysis of these datasets indicates that the excess CHD risk in TT homozygotes compared to CC homozygotes was 2% (much lower than predicted from the prospective observational studies), a nonsignificant difference (that is, it could have occurred by chance). When the probable folate status of the study populations (based on when national folic acid fortification legislation came into effect) was taken into account, there was still no evidence that TT homozygotes had an excess CHD risk. By contrast, in an updated meta-analysis of 86 published studies of the association of the polymorphism with CHD, the excess CHD risk in TT homozygotes compared to CC homozygotes was 15%. Finally, in a meta-analysis of randomized trials on the use of vitamin B supplements for homocysteine reduction, folate supplementation had no significant effect on the 5-year incidence of CHD.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These analyses of unpublished datasets are consistent with lifelong moderate elevation of homocysteine levels having no significant effect on CHD risk. In other words, these findings indicate that circulating homocysteine levels within the normal range are not causally related to CHD risk. The meta-analysis of the randomized trials of folate supplementation also supports this conclusion. So why is there a discrepancy between these findings and those of meta-analyses of published Mendelian randomization studies? The discrepancy is too large to be dismissed as a chance finding, suggest the researchers, but could be the result of publication bias—some studies might have been prioritized for publication because of the positive nature of their results whereas the unpublished datasets used in this study would not have been affected by any failure to publish null results. Overall, these findings reveal a serious example of publication bias and argue against the use of folate supplements as a means of reducing CHD risk.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The American Heart Association provides information about CHD and tips on keeping the heart healthy; it also provides information on homocysteine, folic acid, and CHD, general information on supplements and heart health, and personal stories about CHD
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information about CHD, including personal stories about CHD
Information is available from the British Heart Foundation on heart disease and keeping the heart healthy
The US National Heart Lung and Blood Institute also provides information on CHD (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus provides links to many other sources of information on CHD (in English and Spanish)
Wikipedia has a page on Mendelian randomization (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
PMCID: PMC3283559  PMID: 22363213
14.  Folic Acid, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin B12 in Combination and Age-related Macular Degeneration in a Randomized Trial of Women 
Archives of internal medicine  2009;169(4):335-341.
Observational epidemiologic studies indicate a direct association between homocysteine concentration in the blood and risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), but randomized trial data to examine the effect of homocysteine-lowering in AMD are lacking.
To examine incidence of AMD in a trial of folic acid/vitamin B6/vitamin B12.
Randomized, double-masked, placebo-controlled trial.
5,442 female health professionals aged 40 years or older with preexisting cardiovascular disease (CVD) or 3 or more CVD risk factors. A total of 5,205 of these women did not have a diagnosis of AMD at baseline and were included in this analysis.
Participants were randomly assigned to receive a combination of folic acid (2.5 mg/d), vitamin B6 (50 mg/d), and vitamin B12 (1 mg/d), or placebo.
Main Outcome Measures
Total AMD, defined as a self-report documented by medical record evidence of an initial diagnosis after randomization, and visually-significant AMD, defined as confirmed incident AMD with visual acuity of 20/30 or worse attributable to this condition.
After an average of 7.3 years of treatment and follow-up, there were 55 cases of AMD in the folic acid/B6/B12 group and 82 in the placebo group (relative risk [RR], 0.66; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.47–0.93; p=0.02). For visually-significant AMD, there were 26 cases in the folic acid/B6/B12 group and 44 in the placebo group (RR, 0.59; 95% CI, 0.36–0.95; p=0.03).
These randomized trial data from a large cohort of women at high risk of CVD indicate that daily supplementation with folic acid/B6/B12 may reduce the risk of AMD.
PMCID: PMC2648137  PMID: 19237716
15.  Vitamin Status as a Determinant of Serum Homocysteine Concentration in Type 2 Diabetic Retinopathy 
Journal of Diabetes Research  2014;2014:807209.
We investigated the association of serum homocysteine levels and vitamin status with type 2 diabetic retinopathy. This study included 65 patients with and 75 patients without diabetic retinopathy. Patients with diabetic retinopathy had significantly higher serum homocysteine levels (P < 0.001), higher prevalence of hyperhomocysteinemia (P < 0.001), lower serum folic acid (P < 0.001), and vitamin B12 (P = 0.014) levels than those without diabetic retinopathy. Regression analysis revealed that homocysteine was an independent risk factor for diabetic retinopathy and there was a threshold in its serum level (13.7 μmol/L), above which the risk of diabetic retinopathy greatly increases (OR = 1.66, P = 0.001). Folic acid was associated with decreased odds for diabetic retinopathy (OR = 0.73, P < 0.001). There was a threshold in serum vitamin B12 level (248.4 pg/mL), below which serum homocysteine concentration significantly increases with decreasing serum vitamin B12 (P = 0.003). Our findings suggest that hyperhomocysteinemia is an independent risk factor for the development and progression of diabetic retinopathy. Decreased serum levels of folic acid and vitamin B12, through raising serum homocysteine concentrations, may also affect the diabetic retinopathy risk.
PMCID: PMC4071945  PMID: 25006590
16.  The effect of 1 mg folic acid supplementation on clinical outcomes in female migraine with aura patients 
Migraine is a common neurovascular condition that may be linked to hyperhomocysteinemia. We have previously provided evidence that reduction of homocysteine with a vitamin supplementation can reduce the occurrence of migraine in women. The current study examined the occurrence of migraine in response to vitamin supplementation with a lower dose of folic acid.
This was a 6 month randomised, double blinded placebo controlled trial of daily vitamin supplementation containing 1 mg of folic acid, 25 mg of Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B12, on reduction of homocysteine and the occurrence of migraine in 300 female patients diagnosed with migraine with aura.
Vitamin supplementation with 1 mg of folic acid, did not significantly decrease homocysteine levels (P = 0.2). The treatment group did not show a significant decrease in the percentage of participants with high migraine disability, severity or frequency at the end of the 6 month intervention (P > 0.1).
1 mg of folic acid in combination with vitamin B6 and B12 is less effective in reducing migraine associated symptoms compared to the previously tested dosage of 2 mg folic acid in combination with 25 mg of vitamin B6 and 400 μg of vitamin B12.
PMCID: PMC4919187  PMID: 27339806
Migraine; Folate; Folic acid; Vitamin B6; Vitamin B12
17.  Effect of Folic Acid and B-Vitamins on Risk of Cardiovascular Events and Total Mortality among Women at High Risk for Cardiovascular Disease: A Randomized Trial 
Recent randomized trials among patients with pre-existing cardiovascular disease (CVD) have failed to support benefits of B-vitamin supplementation on cardiovascular risk. Observational data suggest benefits may be greater among women, who have been underrepresented in published randomized trials.
To test whether a combination of folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 lowers risk of CVD among high-risk women with and without CVD.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Within an ongoing randomized trial of antioxidant vitamins, 5,442 female US health professionals 42 years of age or older, with either a history of CVD or three or more coronary risk factors were randomized to a combination pill containing folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 or a matching placebo and were followed for 7.3 years from April, 1998 until July, 2006.
2.5 mg of folic acid, 50 mg of vitamin B6, and 1 mg vitamin B12
Main Outcome Measures
A composite outcome of myocardial infarction (MI), stroke, coronary revascularization, or CVD mortality.
Compared to placebo, active treatment with the combination pill did not decrease the risk of the primary combined endpoint (226.9 per 10,000 person-years versus 219.2 per 10,000 person-years; relative risk =1.03; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.90–1.19, P=0.65), or any of the secondary outcomes including MI (34.5 per 10,000 person-years versus 39.5 per 10,000 person-years; relative risk =0.87; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.63–1.22), stroke (41.9 per 10,000 person-years versus 36.8 per 10,000 person-years in placebo; relative risk =1.14; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.82–1.57), and CVD mortality (50.3 per 10,000 person-years versus 49.6 per 10,000 person-years; relative risk =1.01; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.76–1.35). In a blood sub-study, geometric mean plasma homocysteine level was decreased by 18.5% (95% CI, 12.5–24.1; P<0.001) in the active arm (n=150) over that observed in the placebo arm (n=150) for a difference of 2.27 μmol per liter (95% CI, 1.54 –2.96).
Over the longest follow-up recorded thus far, a combination of folic acid/vitamin B6/vitamin B12 did not reduce a combined endpoint of total cardiovascular events among high-risk women despite significant homocysteine lowering.
Trial Registration Identifier: NCT00000541
PMCID: PMC2684623  PMID: 18460663
18.  Efficacy of homocysteine lowering therapy with folic acid in stroke prevention: a meta-analysis 
Background and Purpose
Although lower serum homocysteine concentration is associated with a reduced risk of stroke in epidemiologic studies, randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have yielded mixed findings regarding the effect of therapeutic homocysteine lowering on stroke prevention. We performed a meta-analysis of RCTs to assess the efficacy of folic acid supplementation in the prevention of stroke.
Salient trials were identified by formal literature search. Relative risk (RR) with 95% confidence interval (CI) was used as a measure of the association between folic acid supplementation and risk of stroke, pooling data across trials using a fixed-effects model.
The search identified 13 RCTs of folic acid therapy to reduce homocysteine, enrolling 39,005 participants, in which stroke was reported as an outcome measure. Across all trials, folic acid supplementation was associated with a trend toward mild benefit that did not reach statistical significance in reducing the risk of stroke (RR 0.93, 95% CI 0.85-1.03; p=0.16). The RR for non-secondary prevention trials was 0.89 (95% CI 0.79-0.99; p=0.03). In stratified analyses, a greater beneficial effect was seen in the trials testing combination therapy of folic acid plus vitamins B6 and B12 (RR 0.83, 0.71-0.97; p=0.02) and in the trials which disproportionately enrolled male patients (men/women > 2, RR 0.84, 0.74-0.94; p=0.003).
Folic acid supplementation did not demonstrate a major effect in averting stroke. However, potential mild benefits in primary stroke prevention, especially when folate is combined with B vitamins and in male patients, merit further investigation.
PMCID: PMC2909661  PMID: 20413740
Homocysteine; Folic Acid; Stroke; Prevention; Meta-Analysis
19.  Effects of Common Anti-epileptic Drugs on the Serum Levels of Homocysteine and Folic Acid 
Elevated total plasma homocysteine has been established as an independent risk factor for CVD. A strong relationship between plasma homocysteine levels and mortality has been reported in patients with CAD. Interference with folate and homocysteine metabolism by some drugs, may lead to increased plasma homocysteine levels. The object of the study was to examine the effect of AEDs on the serum concentrations of folic acid.
A total of 22, older than 18-year-old, epileptic patients, admitted in the Neurology Clinic, who were treated with AED at least for one year were selected. Twenty-two sex- and age-range-matched controls were enrolled in the study. Concentrations of total homocysteine and folic acid in the serum were measured in a fasted status. Demographic and medicine information was collected via a questionnaire. Data were analyzed by spss16 software.
Mean of serum Hcy concentration in the patients was significantly higher compared to that in the controls (p = 0.04). Serum folic acid had a nonsignificant negative correlation with the dose of drug used (p = 0.2). Serum homocysteine was not significantly correlated with the dose and duration of drug consumption (p values were 0.4, 0.24, respectively). Serum homocysteine was not significantly correlated with the kind of drug (p = 0.4), but folic acid concentration was significantly lower in the monotherapy group than in the poly therapy group (p = 0.02).
Homocysteine (Hcy) was not different between the epileptic and nonepileptic groups, although the means of the serum folic acid were similar. Possible mechanisms by which AEDs could cause hyper-homocysteinemia might be through the dysfunction of homocysteine metabolism, the acceleration of vitamin metabolism, and the interference in the metabolism of folic acid coenzymes.
PMCID: PMC3399294  PMID: 22826764
Antiepileptic drug; Folic acid; Homocysteine
20.  The evaluation of serum homocysteine, folic acid, and vitamin B12 in patients complicated with preeclampsia 
Electronic Physician  2016;8(10):3057-3061.
Increased plasma homocysteine may be associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as preeclampsia. The aim of this study was to determine the plasma homocysteine, serum folate, and vitamin B12 levels in preeclamptic pregnant women.
This case-control study was conducted in 2016 in Ahwaz on 51 pregnant women with preeclampsia and 51 healthy pregnant women of the same gestational age, who served as controls. The case group also was subdivided into severe and non-severe preeclampsia. Patients’ data were collected through a questionnaire and medical records. Serum homocysteine, folic acid, and vitamin B12 were analyzed using chemiluminescent assay. The results were compared between two groups. Statistical analyses were done using IBM-SPSS 20.0. A Kolmogorov-Smirnov test, independent samples t-test, Mann-Whitney test, and Chi-square test were used for data analysis.
No different demographic characteristics were found among the groups. Pregnant women complicated with preeclampsia displayed significantly higher serum homocysteine levels (p < 0.001) and lower serum folate (p = 0.005) and vitamin B12 levels (p < 0.001) compared to controls. A statistically significant inverse correlation was evident between serum homocysteine and serum folate levels in preeclamptic patients (p = 0.005; r = −0.389). In addition, an inverse correlation was identified between homocysteine and serum vitamin B12, but it was not statistically significant (p = 0.160; r = −0.200). Significant differences occurred in serum homocysteine and folate levels between the severe and non-severe subgroups (p < 0.001, p < 0.001).
Women complicated with preeclampsia displayed higher maternal serum homocysteine and lower serum folate and vitamin B12. Further studies are needed to confirm if the prescription of folic acid and vitamin B12 in women with a deficiency of these vitamins could decrease the level of serum homocysteine and, therefore, reduce the risk of preeclampsia or, if it occurred, its severity.
PMCID: PMC5133028  PMID: 27957303
Homocysteine; Folic acid; Vitamin B12; Preeclampsia
High homocysteine levels may be neurotoxic and contribute to cognitive decline in older persons.
Examine the effect of supplementation with folic acid, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6 on cognitive change among women with cardiovascular disease (CVD) or CVD risk factors.
The Women's Antioxidant and Folic Acid Cardiovascular Study is a randomized, placebo-controlled trial to test a combination of B vitamins (folic acid 2.5 mg, vitamin B6 50 mg, and vitamin B12 1 mg, daily) for secondary prevention of CVD. Randomization took place among 5,442 female health professionals, 40+ years, with CVD or at least three coronary risk factors in 1998 (after folic acid fortification began in the US). Shortly after randomization (mean=1.2 years), a cognitive function substudy was initiated among 2009 participants aged 65+ years. Telephone cognitive function testing was administered up to four times over 5.4 years with 5 tests of general cognition, verbal memory and category fluency. Repeated measures analyses were conducted. The primary outcome was a global composite score averaging all tests.
Mean cognitive change from baseline did not differ between the B vitamin and placebo groups (difference in change in global score= 0.03, 95% CI −0.03, 0.08; p=0.30). However, supplementation appeared to confer benefits in preserving cognition among women with low baseline dietary intake of B vitamins.
Combined B vitamin supplementation did not delay cognitive decline among women with CVD or CVD risk factors. Possible cognitive benefits of supplementation among women with low dietary intake of B vitamins warrant further study.
PMCID: PMC3470481  PMID: 19064521
22.  Effect of lipid-lowering and anti-hypertensive drugs on plasma homocysteine levels 
Elevated plasma concentrations of homocysteine, a sulfur-containing amino acid, are a risk factor for coronary, cerebral and peripheral artery disease. Next to other factors, drugs used for the prevention or treatment of cardiovascular disease may modulate plasma homocysteine levels. Thus, a drug induced homocysteine increase may counteract the desired cardioprotective effect. The aim is to summarize the current knowledge on the effect of two important classes of drugs, lipid-lowering drugs and anti-hypertensive drugs, on homocysteine metabolism. Among the lipid-lowering drugs, especially the fibric acid derivatives, which are used for treatment of hypertriglyceridemia and low HDL-cholesterol, are associated with an increase of homocysteine by 20%–50%. This increase can be reduced, but not totally avoided by the addition of folic acid, vitamin B12 and B6 to fibrates. HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors (statins) do not influence homocysteine concentrations substantially. The effects of nicotinic acid and n3-fatty acids on the homocysteine concentrations are less clear, more studies are necessary to clarify their influence on homocysteine. Antihypertensive drugs have also been studied with respect to homocysteine metabolism. A homocysteine increase has been shown after treatment with hydrochlorothiazide, a lowering was observed after treatment with ß-blockers, but no effect with ACE-inhibitors. The clinical significance of the homocysteine elevation by fibrates and thiazides is not clear. However, individual patients use these drugs for long time, indicating that even moderate increases may be important.
PMCID: PMC1994037  PMID: 17583180
homocysteine; fibrates; diuretics; cardiovascular disease
23.  Study of Vitamin B12 deficiency and peripheral neuropathy in metformin-treated early Type 2 diabetes mellitus 
Long-term therapy with metformin was shown to decrease the Vitamin B12 level and manifested as peripheral neuropathy.
The aim of this study is to define the prevalence of Vitamin B12 deficiency in early Type 2 diabetic patients (duration ≤5 years or drug treatment ≤3 years) and the relationship among metformin exposure and levels of cobalamin (Cbl), folic acid, and homocysteine (Hcy) with severity of peripheral neuropathy.
This is a cross-sectional study involving randomly selected ninety patients (male 56, female 34) between age groups of 35 and 70 years, comparing those who had received >6 months of metformin (Group A) (n = 35) with those without metformin (Group B) (n = 35) and patients taking metformin with other oral hypoglycemic agent (Group C) (n = 20). Comparisons were made clinically, biochemically (serum Cbl, fasting Hcy, and folic acid), and with electrophysiological measures (nerve conduction studies of all four limbs). Comorbidities contributing to neuropathy were excluded from the study.
Group A patients (54.28%) were prone to develop peripheral neuropathy comparing Group B (28.57%) and Group C (35%). There was significantly low plasma level of Cbl in Group A (mean 306.314 pg/ml) than in Group B (mean 627.543 pg/ml) and Group C (mean 419.920 pg/ml). There was insignificant low-level plasma folic acid in Group A (16.47 ng/ml) than in Group B (16.81 ng/ml) and Group C (22.50 ng/ml). There was significantly high level of Hcy in Group A (mean 17.35 µmol/L) and Group C (mean 16.99 µmol/L) than in Group B (mean 13.22 µmol/L). Metformin users even for 2 years showed evidence of neuropathy on nerve conduction velocity though their body mass index and postprandial blood sugar were maintained. There was significant difference in between groups regarding plasma Cbl, folic acid, and Hcy level as significance level <0.05 in all three groups (F [2, 87] = 28.1, P = 0.000), (F [2, 87] = 7.43, P = 0.001), (F [2, 87] = 9.76, P = 0.000). Post hoc study shows significant (P < 0.05) lowering of Cbl and Hcy level in Group A (mean = 306.314, standard deviation [SD] = 176.7) than in Group C (mean = 419.92, SD = 208.23) and Group B (mean = 627.543, SD = 168.33).
Even short-term treatment with metformin causes a decrease in serum Cbl folic acid and increase in Hcy, which leads to peripheral neuropathy in Type 2 diabetes patients. A multicenter study with heterogeneous population would have increased the power of the study. We suggest prophylactic Vitamin B12 and folic acid supplementation or periodical assay in metformin user.
PMCID: PMC5040042  PMID: 27730072
Diabetes mellitus; metformin; screening; Vitamin B12 deficiency
24.  A Randomized Controlled Trial to Examine the Effect of 2-Year Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid Supplementation on Physical Performance, Strength, and Falling: Additional Findings from the B-PROOF Study 
Elevated homocysteine concentrations are associated with a decline in physical function in elderly persons. Homocysteine-lowering therapy may slow down this decline. This study aimed to examine the effect of a 2-year intervention of vitamin B12 and folic acid supplementation on physical performance, handgrip strength, and risk of falling in elderly subjects in a double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial. Participants aged ≥65 years with elevated plasma homocysteine concentrations [12–50 µmol/L (n = 2919)] were randomly assigned to daily supplementation of 500 µg vitamin B12, 400 µg folic acid, and 600 IU vitamin D3, or to placebo with 600 IU vitamin D3. Physical performance (range 0–12) and handgrip strength (kg) were measured at baseline and after 2 years. Falls were reported prospectively on a research calendar. Intention-to-treat (primary) and per-protocol (secondary) analyses were performed. Physical performance level and handgrip strength significantly decreased during the follow-up period, but this decline did not differ between groups. Moreover, time to first fall was not significantly different (HR: 1.0, 95 % CI 0.9–1.2). Secondary analyses on a per-protocol base identified an interaction effect with age on physical performance. In addition, the treatment was associated with higher follow-up scores on the walking test (cumulative OR: 1.3, 95 % CI 1.1–1.5). Two-year supplementation of vitamin B12 and folic acid was neither effective in reducing the age-related decline in physical performance and handgrip strength, nor in the prevention of falling in elderly persons. Despite the overall null-effect, the results provide indications for a positive effect of the intervention on gait, as well as on physical performance among compliant persons >80 years. These effects should be further tested in future studies.
PMCID: PMC4703626  PMID: 26412463
Homocysteine; Aging; Falling; Physical function; Vitamin B12; Folic acid
25.  B Vitamins and Antioxidants Intake is Negatively Correlated with Risk of Stroke in Iran 
International Journal of Preventive Medicine  2013;4(Suppl 2):S284-S289.
Stroke is a leading cause of death in developed countries. However, current therapeutic strategies for stroke have been largely unsuccessful. Several studies have reported important benefits on reducing the risk of stroke and improving the post-stroke-associated functional declines in patients who ate foods rich in micronutrients, including B vitamins. Folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 are all cofactors in homocysteine metabolism. Growing interest has been paid to hyperhomocyste inemia as a risk factor for stroke. Experimental studies suggest that oxidative stress plays an important role in the pathogenesis of ischemic cerebral injury, and higher intake of antioxidants has been associated with a lower risk of stroke in large population studies. The aim of this study was to examine whether the dietary intake of B vitamins and antioxidants in patients with stroke were comparatively worse than those in patients without stroke.
In this case control study, 69 stroke patients (46 male, age = 56 ± 18 years and 23 female, age = 52 ± 7 years) admitted to Azzahra hospital between April 2009 and May 2010 were matched for age and sex with 60 patients (30 male and 30 female) from the same hospital who were not affected with acute cerebrovascular diseases and did not have a history of stroke. Dietary intake was assessed with a validated self-administered food frequency questionnaire (FFQ). FFQ was collected conducting face-to-face interview with one of the patients’ close relatives. Food intakes, translated into nutrient data, were compared between the two groups and with the recommended values.
Intake of folic acid in men with stroke and vitamin B12 in women with stroke was significantly lower than that in the patients without stroke (P < 0.05), but there was no significant difference between the two groups in the level of antioxidant consumption in women and men (P > 0.05).
Our findings suggest that increased folic acid, vitamin B12, and vitamin E, C intake may be associated with decreased risk of stroke.
PMCID: PMC3678233  PMID: 23776739
Dietary quality; folic acid; stroke; vitamin B6; vitamin B12

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