The simple, inexpensive nutrient your heart needs more of

I would venture a guess that, unless you’re pregnant, you probably don’t spend much time thinking about folic acid. Despite its status as an essential nutrient (one humans need in order to survive), folic acid is most commonly associated with its role in preventing birth defects in unborn babies. And of course, no one would argue that is indeed a critical function. But folic acid has much, much more to offer. In fact, some new research indicates it may be one of the most important nutrients you can take to protect your heart.

Of course, there’s been some controversy about folic acid’s cardiovascular benefits, with some researchers suggesting it doesn’t help prevent heart attack or stroke. But this new study—published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, no less—should settle any doubts once and for all.

Researchers looked at The China Stroke Primary Prevention Trial (CSPPT), which included more than 20,000 adults between 45 and 75 years old. Subjects had high blood pressure but no history of heart attack or stroke. Researchers divided the participants into two groups. Both groups were given a common blood pressure drug. But one of the groups also received a small daily dose of folic acid.

Results showed that folic acid made a significant difference when it came to protecting against stroke and other cardiovascular events. In fact, the folic acid group’s stroke risk went down by 21% compared to the drug-only group.

When it comes to heart disease, everyone is on the hunt for the latest, greatest “magic bullet.” But this study is a great reminder that we shouldn’t ignore the old standbys. Especially when something as simple and inexpensive as folic acid can make such a dramatic impact on such a  potentially serious health threat.

And the fact that folic acid offered so much stroke protection at such a low dose was even more encouraging. Subjects in this study took just 0.8 mg of folic acid. Which is still double the paltry 0.4 mg RDA our so-called government “experts” recommend.

Imagine how much better the results might have been if subjects were taking a more optimal dose of this essential nutrient. I recommend 5 mg of folic acid a day, along with 100 mg of vitamin B6 and 1,000 mcg of vitamin B12. These three nutrients work together in the body to combat numerous threats to your heart health.

You can get all of them from a high-quality B-complex supplement. But it doesn’t hurt to add a few extra servings of folic-acid-rich foods to your menu too. And I’m not talking about “fortified” cereals or “enriched” breads. You’re much better off opting for natural sources of this essential nutrient—like broccoli, arugula, spinach, asparagus, and avocado.


“Folate Supplementation in HTN May Lower Risk for First Stroke.” Medscape Medical News, 3/16/15