Folic acid improves arterial endothelial function in adults with hyperhomocystinemia


Woo KS, Chook P, Lolin YI, Sanderson JE, Metreweli C, Celermajer DS




J Am Coll Cardiol


OBJECTIVES: To evaluate whether oral folic acid supplementation might improve endothelial function in the arteries of asymptomatic adults with hyperhomocystinemia. BACKGROUND: Hyperhomocystinemia is an independent risk factor for endothelial dysfunction and occlusive vascular disease. Folic acid supplementation can lower homocystine levels in subjects with hyperhomocystinemia; however, the effect of this on arterial physiology is not known. METHODS: Adults subjects were recruited from a community-based atherosclerosis study on healthy volunteers aged 40 to 70 years who had no history of hypertension, diabetes mellitus, hyperlipidemia, ischemic heart disease or family history of premature atherosclerosis (n = 89). Seventeen subjects (aged 54 +/- 10 years, 15 male) with fasting total homocystine levels above 75th percentile (mean, 9.8 +/- 2.8 micromol/liter) consented to participate in a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled and crossover trial; each subject received oral folic acid (10 mg/day) and placebo for 8 weeks, each separated by a washout period of four weeks. Flow-mediated endothelium-dependent dilation (percent increase in diameter) of the brachial artery was assessed by high resolution ultrasound, before and after folic acid or placebo supplementation. RESULTS: Compared with placebo, folic acid supplementation resulted in higher serum folate levels (66.2 +/- 7.0 vs. 29.7 +/- 14.8 nmol/liter; p < 0.001), lower total plasma homocystine levels (8.1 +/- 3.1 vs. 9.5 +/- 2.5 micromol/liter, p = 0.03) and significant improvement in endothelium-dependent dilation (8.2 +/- 1.6% vs. 6 +/- 1.3%, p < 0.001). Endothelium-independent responses to nitroglycerin were unchanged. No adverse events were observed. CONCLUSION: Folic acid supplementation improves arterial endothelial function in adults with relative hyperhomocystinemia, with potentially beneficial effects on the atherosclerotic process.