New study dispels role of B vitamins in preventing heart attacks

September 10, 2017

The revelation will confound supporters and some doctors of the value of vitamins, who believe that folic acid and vitamin B-6 can prevent heart disease by reducing levels of a substance called homocysteine in the blood.

But this study, of more than 3,700 patients by Norwegian scientists shows that high doses of B vitamins might not be as valuable as once thought.

It seems that those patients who took folic acid or vitamin B-6 alone had a small and statistically insignificant increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease, but those who took both saw their risk jump by 20 percent.

Professor Kaare Harald Bonaa of the University of Tromso, Norway, says the 3-year trial showed vitamins did reduce homocysteine levels, by around 30 percent, but this did not translate into lowered heart risk.

Bonaa says the homocysteine hypothesis is now 'dead'.

Apparently homocysteine is an amino acid which is produced when the body metabolises high-protein foods, and scientists believe that high concentrations could damage blood-vessel walls.

In conclusion the researchers say that the results of the trial are important because they tell doctors that prescribing high doses of B vitamins will not prevent heart disease or stroke.

They believe that B vitamins should only be prescribed to patients with a B vitamin deficiency.

The study findings were presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2005.

In cases where angioplasty cannot be performed immediately but can be done some time between one and three hours after the heart attack, doctors have been giving the clot-buster to patients in this situation anyway, in the hope it might help.

In this latest study, led by Dr Frans Van de Werf of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, the strategies were compared among 1,667 patients in hospitals.

Half were given the clot-buster while en route to angioplasty, while the other half were given a fake pill.

The researchers found that 6% of patients who got the drug, TNKase, died within 30 days of the angioplasty, compared with only 3.8% of those in the angioplasty alone group.

The study, which was supposed to enroll 4,000 patients, was stopped prematurely once the difference in death rates between the two groups became apparent.

The findings were presented at the annual conference of the European Society of Cardiology in Sweden.

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