Stroke risk may be reduced by taking Vitamin B, a new report says. However, Previous research has yielded conflicting findings on whether taking vitamin B supplements affects the risk of stroke or heart attack at all, and some studies have even concluded that taking vitamin B supplements may actually increase the risk, according to the review authors.
According to Medicinenet.com , the authors of the new report analyzed the findings of 14 clinical trials that included a total of almost 55,000 people and all of the trials compared vitamin B supplement use with a placebo or very low-dose vitamin B. The participants were followed for a minimum of six months and there were 2,471 strokes among the participants in the studies, all of which showed some benefit of taking vitamin B. Redorbit reports that vitamin B has been found to lower homocysteine levels, a molecule in the blood which aids in blood clotting. With lower levels of this molecule, the risk of a clot running through the blood stream and lodging in the brain is thereby reduced.
Vitamin B supplements reduced the risk of stroke by 7 percent, but did not appear to reduce the severity of strokes or the risk of death from stroke, according to the review. It was published in the Sept.18th online issue of the journal Neurology.
The researchers also found that folic acid, a supplemental form of folate, also known as B9, that is common in fortified cereals, appeared to reduce the beneficial effect of vitamin B and that vitamin B12 had no effect on stroke risk.
"Based on our results, the ability of vitamin B to reduce stroke risk may be influenced by a number of other factors, such as the body's absorption rate, the amount of folic acid or vitamin B12 concentration in the blood, and whether a person has kidney disease or high blood pressure," review author Xu Yuming, of Zhengzhou University in China, said in a journal news release. "Before you begin taking any supplements, you should always talk to your doctor," Yuming added.
One expert agreed, noting that strokes can be caused by many varying factors.
"Ischemic strokes can have many different causes, the most common being hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking and obesity," said Dr. Rafael Alexander Ortiz, director of neuro-endovascular surgery and stroke at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "There is a group of patients that may suffer a stroke due to deficiency of vitamins and enzymes. It is appropriate to perform a comprehensive work-up, including [for] vitamin deficiencies, in patients that have suffered a stroke."
Another expert said the findings are important. Dr. Albert Favate, director of the Comprehensive Stroke Center at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City said, "[The report] identifies a substance which is readily available and has been demonstrated to have a positive effect in stroke risk reduction in certain population subgroups. The article also reflects the increased public thirst for dietary prevention of stroke."
There are other ways to get B vitamins into the body other than supplements. Vitamin B, a group of 8 vitamins, can be found in unprocessed foods and meat. Foods like beef, cheese, crustaceans, eggs, fish and even fortified cereals and soy are all high in B vitamins.