Vitamin B May Not Reduce Stroke Risk

Business Week

Jury still out on the vascular benefits of supplementation, experts say

Stroke patients who take vitamin B supplements to lower their homocysteine levels may not be protected from second strokes or heart attacks, a new study finds.

Earlier studies found an association between homocysteine, an amino acid, in the blood, and an increased risk for stroke and heart attack. Vitamin B supplements lower homocysteine levels, but whether this really has an effect on stroke and heart attack risk has been unclear, the Australian researchers noted.

"B vitamins are safe, but they were not, statistically, significantly more effective than placebo in preventing major vascular events among stroke and TIA [transient ischemic attack] patients," said lead researcher Dr. Graeme J. Hankey, head of the stroke unit at Royal Perth Hospital in Western Australia. "B vitamins have not been proven to have a role in secondary stroke prevention."

The report is published in the Aug. 4 online edition of The Lancet Neurology, and will appear in the September print issue of the journal.

For the study, Hankey and his colleagues in the Vitamins to Prevent Stroke (VITATOPS) trial tested whether lowering homocysteine with a combination of folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 would lower the risk of a second stroke or heart attack in patients who had a recent stroke or transient ischemic attack.

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