B Vitamins May Reduce Risk of Stroke
From time to time, researchers conduct what is called a “meta-analysis” of all the different studies on a specific topic in order to summarize the results and help make recommendations to the general public. In 2011, a meta-analysis was published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition that analyzed 19 studies on the effect of B vitamins and cardiovascular disease risk. When all the data from the studies was pooled together, researchers found that B vitamin supplementation did NOT lower the risk of heart attacks or death by any cause. But the analysis did find that supplementation of the diet with B vitamins did lower the risk of stroke by 12%. Other studies have shown similar results with B vitamins and stroke. One study, called the Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation 2, found that participants with heart disease who took B vitamins for 5 years, were 25% less likely to suffer a stroke.
Researchers believe that the reason for findings linking B vitamins and stroke risk may be related to the effect that B vitamins have on homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is an amino acid (building block of protein) found in the blood and comes mostly from eating animal protein. Too-high levels of homocysteine in the body have been linked to the development of heart disease because it damages the structure of blood vessels. High levels of homocysteine are also connected to low levels of B vitamins, since B vitamins play a role in helping decrease the levels of homocysteine in the blood.
So what can you do to lower your homocysteine levels and decrease your risk of stroke? First make sure you are eating a plant-based diet full fresh fruits and vegetables, especially green leafy veggies to keep your meat intake low and B vitamin levels high. Kale, broccoli, and spinach are important staples in any healthy diet. The B vitamins that are especially important for lowering your risk of stroke are B6, B12, and folic acid. A good multivitamin should contain sufficient amounts of all these B vitamins to keep you healthy. So, eat your greens like your mother said!
Just remember to check with your healthcare professional before adding any supplements to your diet.
To learn more about vitamin B and the symptoms of vitamin B deficiency, check out our post on the subject here.