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Increased folate lowers blood pressure in women
Research fellow at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, John P. Forman, MD, and colleagues utilized data from the Nurses Health Study I, which included women aged 43 to 70, and the Nurses Health Study II, which involved women ages 26 to 46. Food frequency questionnaires completed at the beginning of the study and every four years were analyzed to determine the dietary and supplementary folate intake of the 150,000 participants. Blood pressure information was reported on questionnaires every two years.
It was found that among women aged 26 to 46 whose dietary and supplemental folate intake was in the top fifth at over 800 micrograms per day there was a 29 per lower risk of hypertension than those whose intake was in the lowest one-fifth, at 200 micrograms per day. Women in the top fifth of the older group experienced a risk of hypertension that was 13 percent lower.
When women whose intake of folate from diet alone was 200 micrograms or less were studied separately, those in the younger group who were taking 800 micrograms supplemental folic acid per day had a 48 percent reduction in hypertension risk compared to those who did not take folic acid, and women in the older group experienced a 40 percent reduction.
Because folate reduces homocysteine levels, it may help prevent damage to blood vessels that can lead to hypertension. The vitamin may also help relax the vessels, according to Dr Forman.
The DASH study (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) clearly indicates a strong dietary role for adequate potassium, calcium, and magnesium, as derived from natural diets, as beneficial to cardiovascular diseases (Appel et al. 1997). Oral potassium supplements lower blood pressure (Whelton et al. 1997). The mechanism of action of potassium may include natriuresis, reduced renin release, antagonism of the pressor effects of angiotensin II, direct vasodilation, enhanced endothelial-dependent vasodilation, decreased vasoconstrictive thromboxanes, and increased vasodilatory kallidin (Morris and Sebastian 1995).
Secondary Nutritional Approaches
Folic acid (folate) is a member of the B-complex family. It is found in abundance in leafy green vegetables, but is often deficient in the standard American diet. Folic acid participates in a coenzyme reaction that synthesizes DNA needed for cell growth and new cell formation and helps convert vitamin B12 to one of its coenzyme forms.
L-arginine is an essential amino acid. It is required for the body to synthesize nitric oxide, which enables the arterial system to retain its youthful elasticity. Nitric oxide also helps to produce endothelial relaxation factor, which is needed by the arterial system to expand and contract with each heartbeat.
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