Could B vitamins protect against the metabolic syndrome?

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a collection of abnormal health conditions that include central obesity, hypertension, impaired fasting blood glucose and dyslipidemia.    Image © monkeybusinessimages / Getty Images
Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a collection of abnormal health conditions that include central obesity, hypertension, impaired fasting blood glucose and dyslipidemia. Image © monkeybusinessimages / Getty Images

Related tags Folate intake Vitamin b12 B vitamins Vitamin b6 Metabolic syndrome Obesity

Dietary intake and blood levels of folate, and vitamins B6 and B12 were inversely associated with MetS risk in young American adults, says a new study from Texas State University.

Data published in JAMA Network Open​ suggest that adequate intakes of folate, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 should be recommended for prevention of MetS.

“We found that folate intake was inversely associated with all individual components of MetS,” ​wrote the scientists. “However, the inverse association between vitamin B6 and MetS may be mainly explained by its favorable outcomes on adiposity, hypertriglyceridemia, low HDL-C, and elevated BP. Regarding vitamin B12, its inverse association with MetS may be mainly explained by its favorable impacts on adiposity, hypertriglyceridemia, and low HDL-C.”

MetS

Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a collection of abnormal health conditions that include central obesity, hypertension, impaired fasting blood glucose and dyslipidemia. It affects about a third of all US adults and is associated with significantly increased risks of heart diseases, stroke, type 2 diabetes and other serious health problems.

The study, which shows correlation and not causation, involved analysis of data from 4,414 US adults, including both Black and White people. Data was collected over a period of 30 years for the participants, with dietary intakes assessed using a validated diet history at years 0, 7, and 20. A subset of 1,430 participants provided samples to allow for measurement of serum concentrations of folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 at years 0, 7, and 15.

The researchers documented 1,240 incident cases of MetS over the 30 years of study. Comparing the lowest average intakes of the B vitamins to the highest average intakes, the researchers determined that folate was associated with a 61% reduction in MetS risk, while B6 and B12 were associated with a 39% and 26% reduction.

Even greater numbers were observed when the researchers looked at the serum data from the subset of participants.

“Our findings are biologically plausible,” ​wrote the researchers. “Emerging evidence suggests that folate, vitamin B6, and B12 are essential for facilitating energy, lipid, and carbohydrate metabolism in rodents and humans, mainly by counteracting hyperhomocysteinemia. Our exploratory analysis showed inverse association between serum B vitamin and serum Hcy [homocysteine] concentrations, and positive association of serum Hcy with MetS incidence.

“However, when we adjusted for serum Hcy in Model 2, the observed B vitamins-MetS associations were slightly attenuated but remained significant, suggesting that it is likely to be a multifactorial mechanism.”

“Further investigations are needed to confirm our findings and establish causal inference,” ​they concluded.

Source: JAMA Network Open
2023; 6​(1):e2250621. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.50621
“Folate, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin B12 Status in Association With Metabolic Syndrome Incidence”
Authors: J. Zhu, et al.

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