, Volume 23, Issue 6, pp 491-502

Homocysteine Lowering with Folic Acid and Vitamin B Supplements

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Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in older men and women and contributes significantly to morbidity in later life. Folic acid and other vitamin B deficiencies and elevated total plasma homocysteine levels are associated with increased cardiovascular risk in geriatric patients, but recent studies have questioned the importance of these risk factors in older people. Data on the effects of homocysteine-lowering therapy (e.g. folic acid and vitamin B supplements) on surrogate CVD endpoints, such as atherosclerotic progression, endothelial function, inflammation and hypercoagulation, are conflicting. Findings from randomised clinical trials using clinical CVD outcomes show that folic acid and vitamin B supplements may not provide cardiovascular protection. Furthermore, these findings raise questions about whether the combination of folic acid and B vitamins may actually be harmful. Other large randomised clinical trials are underway to help clarify the role of folic acid and vitamin B supplements in CVD prevention in older people. Data to date do not support use of homocysteine-lowering therapies in either middle-aged or older adults.