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Originally published January 14 2009

Folate Consumption Reduces Risk of Stroke by 20 Percent in Male Smokers

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) A higher intake of folate reduces the risk of stroke in male smokers by 20 percent, according to a new study conducted by researchers from the National Cancer Institute, the National Institutes of Health, the Karolinska Institutet and the Finnish National Public Health Institute, and published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

"Although these observational data do not prove a causal relation, they indicate that high consumption of folate-rich foods (e.g., whole grains, green leafy vegetables, oranges and legumes) may play a role in the prevention of stroke," the researchers said.

Researchers examined data on 26,556 male Finnish smokers between the ages of 50 and 69, comparing the occurrence of stroke with the consumption of several B vitamins as determined by food frequency questionnaires. During a 13.6-year study period, 3,281 of the participants experienced strokes.

The researchers found no relationship between the consumption of B6 or B12 and stroke risk. Men who consumed the most folate, however, had a 20 percent lower risk of stroke than the men who consumed the least.

The highest level of folate consumption in the study was 410 micrograms per day, while the lowest was 262 micrograms per day.

The researchers hypothesized that folate might decrease the risk of stroke by lowering blood levels of the chemical homocysteine, which has been shown to damage blood vessels and induce clotting.

The best way for smokers to reduce their risk of strokes is to quit smoking, but the new study suggests that supplementing foods with folic acid might reduce the risk even to those who will not quit.

In the United States, many foods are already supplemented with folic acid, namely to reduce neural tube defects in infants. Folic acid deficiency can lead to birth defects before many women even know they are pregnant.

The new research might give a boost to efforts to implement similar supplementation in Europe.

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