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No benefit of B vitamin pills for stroke patients

Wednesday August 4th, 2010

Vitamin B supplements do not benefit stroke or heart attack patients, according to research published today.

Earlier observational studies suggested that supplementation with B vitamins can lower raised homocysteine levels, which are linked with increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Professor Graeme Hankey of the Royal Perth Hospital, Australia, and colleagues say the potential protective effect of B vitamins in patients who have had a stroke or transient ischaemic attack ("mini stroke") is not known.

They gave 8,164 patients with recent stroke or transient ischaemic attack within the past seven months either a combination of B vitamins (folic acid 2mg, vitamin B6 25mg, and vitamin B12 500µg) or placebo.

Although the B vitamins were found to be safe and did lower homocysteine levels, they did not reduce the rate of stroke, heart attack, or death from any cause over the following three years.

The study appears in the September edition of The Lancet Neurology. The authors say B vitamins should not be recommended to prevent recurrent stroke.

They say that other research is in the pipeline which may help settle the role of vitamin B.

Professor Peter Sandercock of the Western General Hospital, Edinburgh, UK, adds in a commentary: "This trial does not provide sufficiently robust evidence to support a policy of giving B vitamin supplements for secondary prevention after transient ischaemic attack or minor stroke.

"However, there is still a place for further trials of homocysteine-lowering treatment, especially if the intervention can achieve and sustain large reductions in homocysteine."

Hankey, G. et al. The Lancet Neurology, Vol. 9, September 2010, in press.

Tags: Australia | Diet & Food | Heart Health | Pharmaceuticals | UK News

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