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Homocysteine, B-vitamins and CVD: Symposium on ‘Diet and CVD’

  • Helene McNulty (a1), Kristina Pentieva (a1), Leane Hoey (a1) and Mary Ward (a1)


There is considerable interest in plasma homocysteine (tHcy) as a CVD risk factor. Although the secondary prevention trials published to date have been inconclusive in confirming a benefit of tHcy-lowering treatment with B-vitamins on CVD events generally, such studies are widely recognised to have been insufficiently powered to detect a significant effect for the predicted magnitude of association between tHcy and heart disease risk, and therefore cannot be interpreted as evidence that no relationship exists. In fact, a recent meta-analysis of clinical trials has confirmed that folic acid supplementation reduces the risk of stroke, particularly in individuals without a history of stroke. Evidence supporting a causal relationship between elevated tHcy and heart disease also comes from genetic studies. The most important genetic determinant of tHcy in the general population is the common C677T variant in methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) that results in higher tHcy. Individuals with the homozygous mutant (TT) genotype have a significantly higher (14–21%) risk of heart disease. Plasma tHcy is very responsive to intervention with the B-vitamins required for its metabolism, in particular folic acid, and to a lesser extent vitamins B12 and B6. Thus, although primarily aimed at reducing neural-tube defects, folic acid fortification may have an important role in the primary prevention of CVD via tHcy lowering. Besides folate, riboflavin is required as a cofactor for MTHFR and enhanced riboflavin status results in a marked lowering in tHcy specifically in individuals with the TT genotype, presumably by neutralising the variant form of the enzyme. About 10% of the UK and Irish populations have the TT genotype. In the present paper the potential role of folate and related B-vitamins in the primary prevention of CVD and the implications for nutrition policy are explored.

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Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Professor Helene McNulty, fax +44 28 7032 4965, email


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Homocysteine, B-vitamins and CVD: Symposium on ‘Diet and CVD’

  • Helene McNulty (a1), Kristina Pentieva (a1), Leane Hoey (a1) and Mary Ward (a1)


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