Semin Thromb Hemost 2000; Volume 26(Number 03): 341-348
DOI: 10.1055/s-2000-8101
Copyright © 2000 by Thieme Medical Publishers, Inc., 333 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001, USA. Tel.: +1(212) 584-4662

Vitamin Supplements and Cardiovascular Risk: Review of the Randomized Trials of Homocysteine-Lowering Vitamin Supplements

  • Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, England
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Publication History

Publication Date:
31 December 2000 (online)


Epidemiological studies have shown that higher blood homocysteine levels appear to be associated with higher risks of coronary, cerebral, and peripheral vascular disease and are inversely related to blood levels of folate and of vitamin B 12 and vitamin B6. However, observational studies cannot exclude the possibility that elevated homocysteine levels may be associated with some other factor, rather than being causally related to vascular disease. Large-scale clinical trials of sufficient dose and duration of treatment are required to test this hypothesis, but there was substantial uncertainty about the optimal vitamin regimen to test in such trials. A meta-analysis of 12 randomized trials of vitamin supplements to lower homocysteine levels was carried out to determine the optimal dose of folic acid required to lower homocysteine levels and to assess whether vitamin B 12 or vitamin B6 had additive effects. This meta-analysis demonstrated that reductions in blood homocysteine levels were greater at higher pretreatment blood homocysteine levels and at lower pretreatment folate concentrations. After standardization for a pretreatment homocysteine concentration of 12 μmol/L and folate concentration of 12 nmol/L (approximate average concentrations for western populations), dietary folic acid reduced homocysteine levels by 25% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 23 to 28%) with similar effects in a daily dosage range of 0.5 to 5 mg. Vitamin B 12 (mean 0.5 mg) produced an additional reduction in blood homocysteine of 7%, whereas vitamin B 6 (mean 16.5 mg) did not have any significant effect. Hence, in typical populations, daily supplementation with both 0.5 to 5 mg folic acid and about 0.5 mg vitamin B 12 would be expected to reduce homocysteine levels by one quarter to one third (from about 12 μmol/L to about 8 to 9 μmol/L). Large-scale randomized trials of such regimens are now required to determine whether lowering homocysteine levels by folic acid and vitamin B 12, with or without added vitamin B6, reduces the risk of vascular disease.