Folic acid helps women reduce their risk of birth defects. Now, new research shows the vitamin may also keep stroke patients alive. Researchers say about 31,000 stroke-related deaths and about 17,000 heart disease-related deaths may have been prevented each year since fortification was implemented.
Folic acid lowers homocysteine levels. People with higher homocysteine levels are at an increased risk for stroke and heart disease. Specialists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says, "We think homocysteine somehow causes an insult on the vascular wall, weakening the vessel and making it more prone to damage."
Researchers say their results show the reduction in homocysteine levels was associated with fewer deaths due to stroke and cardiovascular disease. Researchers thus conclude that, "If folic acid fortification is responsible for the improvement in stroke-associated mortality, the public health benefits are substantial."