Sunday, March 07, 2004

Folic Acid in Fortified Grain Products May Cut Stroke Deaths

The folic acid found in enriched grain products may be helping to reduce stroke deaths in the United States.

That's the finding of a federal study presented March 5 at the American Heart Association's Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease, Epidemiology and Prevention in San Francisco.

The fortification of these foods with folic acid, required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration since 1996, was designed to reduce the number of children born with neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. But researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as others, suspected the fortification might also offer a secondary benefit -- a reduction in deaths from stroke.

Quanhe Yang, a CDC epidemiologist, and his co-researchers estimate in their study that 31,000 stroke-associated deaths and 17,000 deaths related to heart disease may have been prevented annually since the fortification was implemented. They analyzed national death certificate data to evaluate the number of deaths from stroke and heart disease in the United States for people aged 40 and older.

Dr. William Buxton, an assistant clinical professor of neurology at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine in Los Angeles, says the new study puts concrete numbers on something experts have long suspected.

"Supplementing with folic acid and other B vitamins may have some benefit both in the prevention of first strokes and in the prevention of recurrent strokes," says Buxton.

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