Stroke remains the third leading cause of death in the US, taking the lives of more than 140,000 people each year, and is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability. Three-quarters of those suffering from a stroke are aged 65 or older, often the result of decades of poor dietary and lifestyle choices. Past studies have shown that suffering from a stroke is preventable by lowering the circulating levels of the non-protein amino acid known as homocysteine.
Researchers from Europe and China have published the result of a study in the journal Clinical Nutrition that demonstrates how B vitamin supplementation provides a significant protective effect on stroke by independently lowering levels of homocysteine. B vitamins are obtained naturally by consuming a wide variety of vegetarian sources including leafy greens, broccoli, kale, cauliflower and almonds. To obtain optimal levels of the full range of B vitamins (including vitamin B12), a broad spectrum form of the nutrient may be necessary.
Independent studies confirm B vitamins lower stroke risk by nearly one-quarter
Researchers reviewed a meta-analysis of nineteen separate studies with follow-up periods ranging between 6 and 85 months, including dosages of folic acid with or without vitamin B6 and B12. The study authors found that supplementation with B vitamins produced significant reductions in dangerous homocysteine levels as compared to a placebo group. They calculated a 12 percent lowered risk of suffering the effects of a stroke. Interestingly, they found no associated reduction in cardiovascular risk, as stroke and heart disease typically share the same factors for progression.
The result of a separate body of research presented at the International Stroke Conference provides findings from the Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation 2 trial of more than 5,500 men and women with heart disease. Participants were assigned to a daily regimen of either B vitamins or placebo pills for five years. The results showed that people who took the vitamins were 25% less likely to suffer a stroke over the study period, compared to those who took a placebo.
Another important outcome reported in this study was the lowering of stroke risk for those individuals that have already suffered a first stroke. Participants took high or low-dose B vitamins, specifically folate, vitamin B12, and vitamin B6 for a period of two years. Those taking high doses of the B vitamins lowered the occurrence of a second stroke by twenty percent. It’s important to note that the results from both studies required optimal doses of B vitamins from a broad range supplement to dramatically lower stroke risk.
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