Preventing Heart Disease: Homocysteine & B Vitamins or Diet & Exercise?

Craig Stoltz Health Guide
  • Despite the constant stream of studies that shows use of targeted vitamins and supplements rarely does any good for specific conditions such as heart disease, the vitamin and supplement industry continues to boom.


    Today comes another high-quality study on supplements and heart disease. This one knocks down the once-popular idea that B vitamins reduce heart risk.


    Three things you need to know:


    1. B Vitamins Don't Appear to Improve Heart Health. This study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked into whether giving high-risk women B vitamins (including folic acid) would prevent heart disease. It didn't.

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    2. The role of homocysteine in heart disease remains unknown. Researchers have often found that people with levels of homecysteine, an amino acid, are high in people with heart disease. B vitamins have been shown to lower homocysteine levels. Ergo. . .


    3. . . .Sorry, no "ergo" here. B vitamins lower homocysteine levels all right--but those lower levels appear to have no impact on heart disease outcomes. This suggests [but, as usual, doesn't prove] that homocysteine is a marker for heart disease, not a cause.


    So what does all this mean? You hate it when we say this, but:


    The three most important risk factors for heart disease you can control are:

    • not smoking
    • eating a heart-healthy diet--replacing bad fats with good and basing your diet around fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein.
    • getting regular aerobic exercise

    There's good science backing up all three of these "best practices." Dietary supplements? Not so much.


    But every vistor to MyHeartCentral knows that living by heart-healthy best practices is one of the toughest acts in the personal health business, so to speak.


    We have plenty of help: Medical and patient heart health experts; whole areas devoted to diet and exercise; and a community of fellow travelers to turn to for support and idea exchange.


Published On: May 08, 2008