Folic acid could reduce risk of stroke

Folic acid could help to reduce the risk of stroke in people with high levels of homocysteine and a low platelet count according to a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.[1] 


Commenting on the study, Dr Gill Jenkins a GP and advisor to the Health & Food Supplements Information Service (HSIS), notes: “Most strikingly, in this large analysis involving over 10,000 people with high blood pressure, those with a low blood platelet count and high levels of homocysteine who took a combined daily dose of both enalapril (a prescription medication used to treat high blood pressure) and folic acid saw a 73 per cent reduction in their risk of first stroke compared to people who took only enalapril daily.

“Folic acid is an essential B vitamin, which is required for making red blood cells and the synthesis and repair of DNA and RNA. Folic acid is also capable of lowering homocysteine levels in the blood. [2],[3],[4] This is important because high levels of homcysteine are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, including stroke.[5] Several large controlled trials and meta-analyses have shown that folic acid supplementation can reduce the risk of stroke.[6],[7],[8]

“Given the evidence demonstrating the capability of folic acid supplementation in reducing homocysteine levels and risk of stroke, the results of the current study are not surprising.”

During the study follow up period of 4.2 years, a total of 210 first strokes occurred in the enalapril-only group, and 161 first strokes in the enalapril-folic acid group. The researchers found the risk of first stroke reduced from 5.6 per cent to 1.8 per cent among patients with a low platelet count and high homocysteine levels, creating a 73 per cent risk reduction in stroke.

Dr Gill Jenkins adds: “This analysis indicates that, as for all medical treatments, people benefit from a detailed biochemical assessment. This study indicates that folic acid in addition to a standard anti-hypertensive medication may be of particular benefit in a specific group of people with high blood pressure, high homocysteine levels and a low platelet count.

“People who have high blood pressure or are concerned about their cardiovascular health or risk of stroke should consult their doctor and should not change any medication they are taking without their doctor’s advice. However, the findings of this study suggest that taking a B vitamin or multi-vitamin and multi-mineral supplement containing folic acid would be a wise move for all adults in the UK.”


[1] The Journal of the American College of Cardiology; Platelet Count Affects Efficacy of Folic Acid in Preventing First Stroke.