Taking folic acid supplements -- along with eating more foods high in folate, such as oranges, leafy greens and fortified grains -- may help some women reduce their risk of hypertension. Young women have been urged for years to increase their intake of folic acid to prevent birth defects. But a new study suggests there could be another benefit: a reduced risk of high blood pressure.
Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, a B vitamin abundant in citrus fruits, tomatoes, leafy green vegetables such as spinach and romaine lettuce, and many beans, including pinto, navy, lentil and kidney.
Women who consumed more than 800 micrograms of folic acid through food and vitamin supplements lowered their risk of high blood pressure by almost a third compared to those who took in less than 200 micrograms a day, according to a study presented Monday at the American Heart Association's annual blood pressure research meeting in Chicago.
Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston studied more than 150,000 women in two age groups to see if there was a link between the risk of high blood pressure and their folic acid intake.
Women 26 to 46 years old who consumed more than 800 micrograms of folate daily boasted the most dramatic decrease in hypertension risk. They reduced their risk of hypertension by 55% over the women who consumed only 200 mcg folate daily. Older women in a 43- to 70-year-old group who ate the most folate also pared back their risk of high blood pressure, but by a more modest 13 percent compared to the low-folate group.
Getting 800 micrograms of folate strictly through diet can be challenging. Essentially all the women in the highest category took a daily multivitamin containing 400 micrograms of folic acid.
Journal of the American Medical Assn, Jan 19, 2005; 293, 3:320-9, 2005
American Heart Association's annual blood pressure research meeting, Chicago, IL. Oct 2004.