One in three American adults have high blood pressure. Scientists discovered that getting plenty of B vitamin folate could lower odds of having a stroke.
A study suggests that high blood pressure can be reduced by folate, a compound found in green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits and beans. In the United States, folate is also added to pasta, rice, cornmeal and most grain products. Folic acid is the fortified version of the folate.
The research was conducted in China, where 20,000 adults with high blood pressure had never had a stroke or heart attack, after they took folic acid supplements and enalapril, a blood-pressure lowering medicine. The survey lasted 4 and a half years.
The cardiovascular benefits of folate are not breaking news. Several studies from the 1970s indicated that people who said they consumed more folate had fewer heart attacks and strokes than those who said they were consuming less. Folate helps break down homocysteine, an amino acid which causes damage to arteries, increasing the risk of a stroke or heart attack.
“Fruits and vegetables are important sources of folate in the diet, and they also bring lots of other benefits, such as potassium and phytonutrients, that also help lower cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The new study suggested that the stroke prevention benefit of folic acid was most visible for people with low baseline folate levels. The new research is relevant for people in areas without folate fortification.
The average person in the United States gets about 100 to 150 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid a day from fortified grain products. It represents around a quarter of the recommended daily intake of 400 mcg a day.
Dr. Willett believes that people who don’t eat food made with flour or the ones that follow a gluten-free diets may have a low folate level. The southwestern part of the US who consume grain products which are not folate-fortified is one of the areas where people fall short in folate.
According to the experts, a person with high blood pressure should eat a generous amount of vegetables and fruits every day. Dr. Willet recommends “people to take a multivitamin, multimineral supplement every day.”
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