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New Studies Confirm Folic Acid, Fish Oil, CoQ10 are Beneficial to Heart Health

One out of every ten cases of coronary artery disease (the leading cause of is heart attack) can be blamed on a little- known substance earned homocysteine. But the good news is that the B vitamin folic acid is an easy and effective way to lower homocysteine levels and the risk of heart disease, according to Carol J. Boushey, Ph.D., along with her colleagues at the University of Washington, Seattle.

Boushey's article in the Journal of the American medical Association (October 4, 1995; #274(13):1049-1057) re- examined data from 38 previous studies relating to homocysteine, folic acid, and heart disease. She found a strong, clear link between elevated homocysteine levels and the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral artery disease.

Folic acid emerged front this study as a nutritional star. There was a clear inverse relationship between folic acid and homocysteine in the blood, meaning that as levels of folic acid in the blood rose, levels of homocysteine dropped. Some of the studies administered high doses of folic acid; however, even small doses showed a remarkable ability to lower abnormal homocysteine levels. For example, supplementing with 650 mcg daily cut homocysteine concentrations by an average of 42%! A daily supplement of 400 meg of folic acid would reduce the risk of heart disease by the same amount as someone lower mg their cholesterol levels by 20 mg/dL.

Folic acid supplements have a huge potential to benefit Americans, Nutritional surveys demonstrate that inadequate folic acid intake is all too common, while Boushey suggests that as many as 56,000 heart disease deaths each year could be prevented by simply boosting folic acid intake.

Fish Oils: Recipe For a Healthy Heart

As few omega-3 fatty acids as those found in one serving of salmon per week halves the risk of cardiac arrest, a heart problem that kills 250,000 Americans annually.

Dietary intake of fish and red blood cell levels of DHA and EPA, the two key fatty acids in fish, were measured in 334 patients dying from cardiac arrest and 493 healthy controls. After controlling for factors that could affect heart disease risk, such as family history, tobacco use, hypertension, diabetes, weight, and exercise, researchers determined that omega-3 fatty acids guard against cardiac arrest.

This study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (November 1, 1995;#274(17):1363-1367) compared the incidence of cardiac arrest in men and women who consumed no fish oils to those consuming at least 5.5 grams of fish weekly. A 50% reduction in the risk of cardiac arrest was seen in the fish eating group, while high levels of omega-3 fatty acids may also reduce the risk of heart diseases by preventing blood clots, lowering blood pressure, and reducing cholesterol levels.

"When compared with no seafood intake, dietary intake of modest amounts of omega-3 fatty acids from seafood may ... reduce the risk of coronary heart disease mortality," says David S. Siscovick, M.D., M.P.H., from the University of Washington.

Coenzyme Q10 and LDL-cholesterol

The oxidation of LDL cholesterol in, considered a key event in the early development of atherosclerosis," says Anatol Kontush of the University of Hamburg in Germany, while coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) "... represents the first line of defense against oxidative modification in human LDL."

When CoQ10 is added to LDL-cholesterol cells growing in the laboratory, copper induced oxidation is significantly lessened. However, the amount of CoQ10 added to this cell culture exceeded the amount naturally occurring in the body, suggesting that amounts greater than normal are required for this benefit.

The antioxidant protection of CoQ10 was found to be even stronger than that afforded by the well-known antioxidant vitamin E. And a combination of CoQ10 and vitamin E enhanced the antioxidant effect of vitamin E alone. Kontush hypothesizes that CoQ10 recycles vitamin E, prolonging its ability to fight free radicals.

Kontush concludes in the journal Biochemica et Biophysica Acta (1995;1259: 177-187) that Coenzyme Q10 plays a protective role in the very early stages of hear disease.

Reprinted with permission from VR, Jan. 1996.