Homocysteine - an amino acid produced in the human body - may be a risk factor for coronary artery disease (CAD), reports Functional Food Newswire.
Homocysteine may irritate blood vessels, leading to the blockages in the arteries known as atherosclerosis. High levels of homocysteine in the blood can also make blood clot more easily than it should because they cause cholesterol to change to oxidized low-density lipoprotein.
As many as one-fifth of people with heart disease have high homocysteine levels, but the presence of B vitamins may help the body change homocysteine into other useful amino acids.
Dr. Jonathan Goodfellow of Wales Heart Research Institute, University of Wales College of Medicine, Cardiff, and colleagues recently undertook to determine whether homocysteine could be safely and inexpensively reduced by 25% with folic acid (a B vitamin).
A randomised, placebo-controlled study of folic acid (5mg/day) for six weeks was undertaken in 33 patients. Endothelial function, assessed by flow-mediated dilatation (FMD), was measured before, at two and four hours after the first dose of folic acid, and after six weeks of treatment.
Plasma folate increased markedly by one hour; FMD improved at two hours and was largely complete by four hours.
Results suggested that folic acid improves endothelial function in CAD by a mechanism largely independent of homocysteine.