Young women who consume more than 800 ug (micrograms) of folate per day can reduce their risk of developing high blood pressure by almost a third compared to those who consume less than 200 ug/day, according to new research presented at the American Heart Association's Annual High Blood Pressure Research Conference. Folate also reduced the risk in older women but to a lesser degree.
Folate is a B-vitamin found in citrus fruits, tomatoes, leafy green vegetables such as spinach and romaine lettuce, beans and grain products. Since January 1998, wheat flour has been fortified with folic acid, the synthetic form of folate, to add an estimated 100 ug per day to the average diet. Folate has been shown to reduce levels of homocysteine, a blood component that can damage blood vessels.
Folate may also help blood vessels relax, improving blood flow, said John P. Forman, lead author of the study.
The researchers studied more than 150,000 women to determine if there was a link between risk of high blood pressure and their level of folate intake, including supplements. Folate intake was examined in two age groups - women 26-46 years old and 43-70. Researchers found the most dramatic effects among the younger group.
Younger women with the highest folate intake had a 29 percent lower risk for high blood pressure. Older women who had total folate intake of 800 ug/day had a 13 percent lower risk. The benefit of folate was independent of other factors such as exercise, salt intake and diet, which are known to influence risk of high blood pressure.