B Vitamins May Lower Heart Disease Risk

A Japanese study has found that dietary intakes of folate and vitamin B6 reduces the risk of dying from stroke and any cardiovascular disease in women and may lower the risk for heart disease in men.

The researchers analyzed data from over 23,000 men and over 35,600 women, ages 40 to 79, who answered food frequency questionnaires. When the study subjects were followed up at a median of 14 years, researchers found that 986 participants died from stroke, 424 died from coronary heart disease and 2,087 died from any cardiovascular disease. The analysis also showed that higher levels of folate and vitamin B6 were associated with significantly fewer deaths from heart failure in men and significantly fewer deaths from stroke, heart disease and any cardiovascular diseases in women. Intake of vitamin B12 did not show a reduction in mortality risk.

The researchers speculated that consumption of higher levels of folate and vitamin B6 might be heart protective because they reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine is an amino acid in the blood. Studies have shown that too much homocysteine in the blood is related to a higher risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements, clinical trials are underway to test whether dietary supplements with folic acid, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6 decreases homocysteine levels and reduces coronary heart disease risk. Some studies are also showing a link between low blood levels of folate and higher rates of breast, pancreatic and colon cancers.

How to Increase Vitamin B in Your Diet

Although the general recommended dietary allowance of folate acid from supplements is 400 micrograms a day and the risk of toxicity from taking too much folate acid is low, before adding folate acid, vitamin B6 or vitamin B12 supplements to your diet, talk with your doctor about what the right amount is for you. To eat a folate-rich diet, choose these foods:

  • Asparagus, avocado, corn and dark green leafy vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, collard greens and turnip greens
  • Legumes, such as lentils, dried beans and peas, including black-eye peas and black, pinto kidney and navy beans and peanuts
  • Fruits like strawberries, cantaloupe, bananas, oranges and orange juice
  • Baked potato
  • Eggs
  • Beets
  • Iceberg and romaine lettuce


National Institute of Health