New study dispels role of B vitamins in preventing heart attacks

According to the findings of a new study, by giving B vitamins to heart attack survivors their risk of having another attack is not reduced, and it may in fact do more harm than good.

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.

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