BACKGROUND: Elevated plasma homocysteine concentrations are considered to be a risk factor for vascular disease and fetal malformations such as neural tube defects. Recent studies have shown that plasma homocysteine can be lowered by folic acid in amounts corresponding to 1- 2 times the recommended dietary allowance. Preliminary evidence indicates that vitamin B-12 may be beneficial when included in supplements or in a food-fortification regimen together with folic acid.
OBJECTIVE: We aimed to compare the homocysteine-lowering potential of a folic acid supplement with that of 2 supplements containing different doses of vitamin B-12 in addition to folic acid.
DESIGN: Female volunteers of childbearing age (n = 150) received a placebo for 4 wk followed by a 4-wk treatment with either 400 microg folic acid, 400 microg folic acid + 6 microg vitamin B-12, or 400 microg folic acid + 400 microg vitamin B-12.
RESULTS: Significant reductions (P < 0.001) in plasma homocysteine were observed in all groups receiving vitamin treatment. The effect observed with the combination of folic acid + 400 microg vitamin B-12 (total homocysteine, -18%) was significantly larger than that with a supplement containing folic acid alone (total homocysteine, -11%) (P < 0.05). Folic acid in combination with a low vitamin B-12 dose (6 microg) affected homocysteine as well (-15%).
CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that the addition of vitamin B-12 to folic acid supplements or enriched foods maximizes the reduction of homocysteine and may thus increase the benefits of the proposed measures in the prevention of vascular disease and neural tube defects.