Folate May Slash Blood Pressure in Less Than a Month
Taking high doses of folate for a short period of time may reduce blood pressure and improve other cardiovascular measures, says a small study from Italy published in the July 2009 issue of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Folate, also known as vitamin B9, is found naturally in a variety of foods including leafy green vegetables, dried beans, lentils and peas. The man-made version of folate is called folic acid and it can be found in supplement form and as an additive in foods like bread, cereal and grains.
Folate plays an important role in the growth and development of new cells and the making of DNA. This makes it particularly essential for pregnant and nursing women.
Researchers from Modena, Italy recruited 30 healthy post-menopausal women for the study.
The women were randomly divided into two groups. The first group was given 15 mg of 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (naturally circulating form of folate) for three weeks and the second group received a placebo.
While the placebo group saw no change in blood pressure over the study period, the folate group saw a 4.5 mmHg drop in nocturnal systolic blood pressure and 5.3 mmHg drop in nocturnal diastolic blood pressure.
In a blood pressure reading, systolic blood pressure is the top number and diastolic is the bottom number.
The women who took the high doses of folate also saw significant reductions in homocysteine levels (an amino acid linked to cardiovascular disease) and insulin resistance.
The researchers were very pleased by these results but note that larger, longer term studies are necessary in order to verify these findings.
While the potential for folate to lower blood pressure continues to be investigated, it may be a good idea to eat more leafy vegetables or take a folic acid supplement. Folate has been linked to lower risk of birth defects and stroke and may also play a role in regulating your mood.