Folic acid has been much in the news recently, not least because of the controversy surrounding the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) decision not to recommend the fortification of food with the B vitamin.
That debate is likely to continue for some time, and in any case the FSA's recommendation is just that - a recommendation - and does not mean that the fortification will not go ahead.
However, the case for fortification, or at least for supplementation with folic acid, has received a boost with the publication of new research showing that the positive effects of folic acid in reducing homocysteine levels and improving endothelial function can continue up to a year after therapy.
Research carried out by Dr Kam S. Woo of the Prince of Wales Hospital in Hong Kong and published in the May issue of the American Journal of Medicine appears to show that the long-term use of folic acid can have a beneficial effect on the atherosclerotic process - the clogging of the arteries.
Woo's team focused on 29 study participants suffering from hyperhomocysteinemia (an elevated level of homocysteine concentration in the blood), testing their homocysteine levels and vascular responses after supplementing them 10mg of folic acid every day for a year.
The researchers found that the participants showed a significant increase in plasma folate levels and a significant decrease in homocysteine at the end of the year compared to their levels before treatment began.