Foods rich in folate may reduce risk of stroke

DALLAS, May 3 For the first time, high dietary folate was found to decrease the incidence of stroke, according to a 20-year study reported in todays Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Researchers found that people who consumed at least 300 micrograms (mcg) of folate per day had a 20 percent lower risk of stroke and a 13 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease than those consuming less than 136 mcg of folate per day. The findings accounted for other heart disease risk factors such as cholesterol, blood pressure, smoking, and obesity.

Folate is a B-vitamin found in citrus fruits; tomatoes; leafy green vegetables such as spinach and romaine lettuce; pinto, navy, and kidney beans; and grain products. Since January 1998, wheat flour has been fortified with folic acid, the synthetic form of folate, to add an estimated 100 mcg per day to the average diet.

"Our data support the existing recommendation to consume 400 mcg of folate per day," says the studys lead author Lydia A. Bazzano, Ph.D., a research fellow at Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans.

For consumers, Bazzano says the results of this study mean that it is likely that dietary intake of folate can affect the risk of stroke. "Therefore, people should be aware of the amount of folate in their diets," she says. "For doctors, this study would suggest that screening patients dietary folate intake and promoting the recommended level may decrease patients risk of stroke." Folate is thought to have beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system by decreasing levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that is linked to a higher risk of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the disease process that underlies heart disease and stroke. Folate can reduce homocysteine, but this new study looks at the direct effect of folate on cardiovascular disease risk, according to Bazzano.

Researchers looked at participants in the National Health and Nu

Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association

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