Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Link Between Nutrition and Heart Disease, Stroke


The power of nutrients was again demonstrated in two recent medical articles. The first study was published in the prestigious journals of Stroke in January.

In this study, researchers followed over 43,000 men between the ages of 40 and 75 years old for a total of about fourteen years. It was found that those men who had the highest intake of folic acid (typically over 800 mcg a day), lowered their risk of ischemic stroke by almost 30%, compared to those men consuming the least amount of folic acid (typically around 250 mcg a day). (Please note that the typical multi-vitamin only provides 400 mcg per day.)

Researchers also found that a higher intake of vitamin B12 also lowered the risk of this type of stroke. It was speculated that the benefit of these nutrients seemed to be in reducing the level of homocysteine in the blood. Over the past decade, there have been numerous studies indicating the benefits of lowering homocysteine.

As a side item, homocysteine appears to also be a neurotoxin, and may be connected in some way to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, as well. I have been routinely checking homocysteine levels in my patients with dementia, and frequently find these levels to be elevated. Returning to the study published in Stroke, the lead author indicated that this study was not the first to demonstrate that folic acid could reduce the risk of stroke. He felt that the results appeared conclusive and consistent enough to suggest that men should change their behavior to protect their health.

The second study, published in the January edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, dealt with another nutrient, a carotenoid found in tomatoes known as lycopene. In this study, almost 40,000 women who were initially free of cardiovascular disease and cancer, entered into the Harvard Women’s Health Study.

Baseline blood samples were collected from about 28,000 women, with a mean follow-up of approximately 4.8 years. During that time, 483 cases of cardiovascular disease were diagnosed. The groups were matched for age, smoking, plasma cholesterol and other relative risks. It was found that those women who had the highest levels of plasma lycopene reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease by approximately 34%, compared to the group with the lowest plasma lycopene levels.

It was concluded that higher plasma lycopene concentrations were associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease in women. (It should be noted that half of the American population consume 3.6 mg or less of lycopene per day.) Not only is lycopene a powerful antioxidant in terms of reducing risk of cardiovascular disease, it has been shown in several studies to have some protective effect in cancer, especially prostate cancer.

These two large perspective studies certainly drive home their point. By adding supplemental folic acid/B12 to your diet, along with lycopene, there is the potential for significantly reducing your risk of having a heart attack and/or stroke. It seems that it can’t get much easier than this. There is basically no toxicity to these nutrients and nothing but potentially positive benefits. As a neurologist, I care for many stroke patients. Unfortunately, there is little mainstream medicine can do to treat a stroke, and the results are often devastating. Strokes kill brain cells and can lead to permanent paralysis of arms, legs and facial muscles. A person may need lifetime nursing home care.


Look for only the highest quality nutrients, such as Ester-C, Betatene, mixed natural tocopherols, calcium citrate malate, Chromemate, and L-Opti-Zinc. The lycopene should be Lyc-O-mato, which is a standardized product that has previously been used successfully in clinical trials.

Please be aware, many supplements do not use Lyc-O-mato, and even worse, they list the gross lycopene level and not the elemental. They may say 10 – 15 mg lycopene per pill, but in reality, you are only getting less than 1 mg. Effective dosages are in the 5 – 30 mg per day range. Look for a supplement that uses 221 mg to provide 15 mg of elemental lycopene per softgel.

The form of vitamin B12 that is typically used in most vitamin products is cyanocobalamin. Almost all vitamin supplements use this inexpensive form of vitamin B12. Look for the active form of B12, called methylcobalamin. This nutrient provides blood levels equivalent to B12 injections and provides benefits far beyond other forms of B12.

References & Further Reading:

Writes in the lane of nutrition and natural treatment.

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