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Foods high in B vitamins may lower cardiovascular risks: folate and vitamins B6 and B12 appear to be beneficial, but supplements should be taken only when recommended by a doctor.

Two recent studies point to the important role B vitamins may play in cardiovascular health. In one study, published online April 15, 2010 in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers found that eating more foods containing the B vitamins folate and B6 was associated with a lower risk of death from stroke and heart disease in women and a lower risk of death from heart failure in men. A second study, published in the April 2010 issue of Stroke, revealed that intake of folate and vitamin B12 was linked with a lower risk of ischemic stroke in men.

"Answers are limited as to the action these vitamins have on the cardiovascular system," notes Andrea Dunn, RD, a registered dietitian at Cleveland Clinic. "However, when homocysteine levels are elevated, there seems to be a corresponding rise in inflammation, which has been linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. In the study that focused on stroke risk in men, higher intakes of folate and vitamin B12 appeared to lower homocysteine levels along with stroke risk."

Folate sources

Foods that are naturally rich in folate include dried beans and peas, some green vegetables, peanuts, oranges, and wheat germ.

Be aware that many grain-based foods, such as breakfast cereals, are fortified with folic acid, the synthetic form of folate. "High levels of folate can trigger symptoms of a B12 deficiency, so it's important not to get too much folate," cautions Dunn. "It's unlikely that you would get too much from regular foods, but you need to know how much folate you're getting from fortified foods and supplements if you take them.".

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of folate for adults age 51 and up is 400 micrograms (mcg), and the tolerable upper limit (UL) for folate is 1,000 meg. For example, if you take a multivitamin that contains 400 mcg of folate and then you eat one serving of fortified breakfast cereal that contains 100 percent of the RDA, you are up to 800 mcg, or twice the RDA.

"Also check things like fortified waters or drinks and nutrition bars for their folate content," advises Dunn. Many types of rice, pasta, noodles, and grain products also are enriched with folate.

Vitamin B6 sources

Lean meats, fish, potatoes, bananas, garbanzo beans, and some seeds and nuts are good sources of natural vitamin B6. Many breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamin B6. The RDA for vitamin B6 for men age 51 and older is 1.7 milligrams (mg) per day; for women age 51 and older, it is 1.5 mg per day. The UL for B6 is 100 mg per day. Although it is rare for someone to get excessive vitamin B6, too much can result in nerve damage (neuropathy) to the arms and legs, although this condition is reversed once the vitamin B6 intake is lowered.

FOLATE                             Black-eyed peas, cooked,    105 mcg
                                   1/2 cup

RDA is 400 mcg for all adults age  Great Northern beans,        90 mcg
51 and older                       cooked, 1/2 cup

                                   Asparagus, boiled, 4         85 mcg

                                   Spinach, raw, 1 cup          60 mcg

                                   Peanuts, dry roasted, 1      40 mcg

                                   Romaine lettuce, 1/2 cup     40 mcg

                                   Tomato juice, canned 6       35 mcg

B6                                 Potato, baked, 1 medium       .7 mg
                                   with skin

RDA is 1.7 mg for men and 1.5 mg   Banana, 1 medium             .68 mg
for women age 51 and older

                                   Garbanzo beans, canned,      .57 mg
                                   1/2 cup

                                   Chicken breast, skinless,    .52 mg
                                   cooked, 1/2 breast

                                   Pork loin, lean, cooked, 3   .42 mg

                                   Trout, rainbow, cooked, 3    .29 mg

                                   Sunflower seeds, roasted,    .23 mg
                                   1 ounce

B12                                Trout, rainbow, wild,       5.4 mcg
                                   cooked, 3 ounces

RDA is 2.4 mcg for all persons     Salmon, sockeye, cooked, 3  4.9 mcg
age 14 and older                   ounces

                                   Beef, top sirloin,          2.4 mcg
                                   broiled, 3 ounces

                                   Yogurt, plain 1 cup         1.4 mcg

                                   Milk, 1 cup                  .9 mcg

                                   Cheese, Swiss, 1 ounce       .9 mcg

                                   Egg, large, 1 whole          .6 mcg

Vitamin B12 sources

Foods high in vitamin B12 include beef, seafood, and some dairy products. Many breakfast cereals are also fortified with vitamin B12. Dunn says that, like folate, it is uncommon for people to be deficient in vitamin B12. The vitamin is primarily found in animal foods, so vegans should include B12-fortified cereals and milks or nutritional yeast in their eating plans. "And people who take certain medications, such as metformin for diabetes and proton pump inhibitors for acid reflux, may be deficient because these drugs can reduce the absorption of certain vitamins," Dunn adds.

The RDA for vitamin B12 is 2.4 mcg for everyone age 14 and older.

Be judicious with supplements

If you believe you might be lacking in any of these vitamins, discuss your concerns with your doctor. Don't take vitamin supplements unless your doctor recommends them.

"Keep in mind that many other vitamins, minerals and nutrients you get from your diet are needed to help protect your cardiovascular system. Eating a wide variety of healthy foods will provide you with all the other nutrients that help you reduce your risks," says Dunn.
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Title Annotation:NUTRITION
Publication:Heart Advisor
Date:Jul 1, 2010
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