Folic acid for stroke – and to remember

June 12, 2007

You must remember your folic acid, otherwise you forget it.
This sounds like nonsense, but its not.

Folic acid helps keep the brain in good shape, and if you don’t get enough you might have problems thinking clearly and remembering when you get older.

Folic acid is the vitamin that fertile women should take (0.4 mg per day) unless they are 100% sure that they will not become pregnant. Far from all do this, even though folic acid prevents children from being a lifelong invalids due to spinal chord herniation (spina bifida) and reduces the risk of cleft lip and palate! That it is preventative is so called new knowledge (1) which is to say that it was pointed out, but ignored, over twenty years ago.

But folic acid also helps the memory and thought ability. Who do we know this? The English neurologist Edward Reynolds demonstrated it 40 years ago in hi article in The Lancet. He showed that 26 epilepsy patients who suffered folic acid deficiency due to their medicine improved when they received folic acid (2). This has since been forgotten.

Now there are new studies. One had negative results. Its authors concluded that folic acid has no effect on cognitive function, which did not improve for study participants who received 0.4 mg folic acid daily (without vitamin B12, in which they were mildly deficient) (3).

There is a simple explanation for this: the only lasted 24 weeks. This is not long enough, which will be explained below, but first a couple of other results.

An issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition from last February included an article which outlined that the more pronounced folic acid deficiency in elderly people, the poorer (statistically) their cognitive function. The likelihood of decreasing cognitive function was more than doubled in those with a deficiency of folic acid (4). There are many people with folic acid deficiency because folic acid is primarily found in liver and leafy vegetables, which many people push to the side if their plates.

20% fewer strokes
Lack of folic acid is shown roughly by finding increased blood levels of the substance, homocysteine. It is an amino acid which is poisonous to the blood vessels (among other things) and which is believed to lead to atherosclerosis, but that the body nonetheless creates. Normally it is neutralised in part by folic acid. If you lack folic acid, you homocysteine levels rise.

A link between lowered cognitive function and homocysteine has been shown in Sweden (5). There it was shown that elderly people with documented memory problems often had high levels of homocysteine. This was only true with the poor memory was found along with atherosclerosis, which homocysteine is believed to promote!

In addition, Dutch researchers recently showed in a randomised trail that a supplement of folic acid (o.8 mg daily) for 50 – 70 year olds not only reduced their levels of homocysteine, but also statistically improved the “brain functions which have a tendency to decline with age.” Memory, reaction time, and the ability to speak quickly and fluently were bettered. The study lasted for three years, which is a necessary time period (6).

If that is not enough, a comprehensive study of eight randomised studies has recently shown that the risk of stroke resulting from atherosclerosis generally is reduced by 20% when taking folic acid supplements. The studies which lasted longer than three years showed the best results. Participants who had already had a stroke were less protected and if those who were lucky enough to live in a country where food is enriched with folic acid (USA, Canada) showed fewer effects.

We should remember our folic acid. The daily dosage should be between 0.4 and 0.8 mg daily.

By: Vitality Council


1. Bille C et al. Folic acid and birth malformations. BMJ 2007;334:433-34.
2. Reynolds E. Folate and aging. Lancet 2007;;369:1601.
3. Eussen SJ et al. Effect of oral vitamin B12 with or without folic acid on cognitive function in older people with mild vitamin B-12 deficiency: A randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;84(2):361-70.
4. Haan M et al. Homocysteine, B-vitamins, and the incidence of dementia and cognitive impairment: Results from the Sacramento area latino study on aging. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;85:511-7.
5. Nilsson K et al. Plasma homocysteine is elevated in elderly patients with memory complaints and vascular disease. Dement Geriatr Cogn Discord 2007;23(5):321-6.
6. Durga J et al. Effect of 3-year folic acid supplementation on cognitive function in older adults in the FACIT trial: A randomised double blind controlled trial. The Lancet 2007;369:208-16.
7. Xiaobin Wang et al. Efficacy of folic acid supplementation in stroke prevention: a meta-analysis. The Lancet 2007;369:1876-82.

Alcohol Counteracts the Effect of Folic Acid in Women

October 29, 2003

Epidemiologic study shows folic acid deficiency in women with a daily alcohol consumption of 2-3 drinks and thereby increased risk of chronic joint disease, coronary disease (blood clots) and breast cancer.

Women who drink 2-3 glasses of red wine or more daily have an increased risk of developing chronic joint disorders, cardiovascular disease and breast cancer due to lack of folic acid.

A study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston shows that daily alcohol consumption not only reduces the effects of folic acid, but also significantly increases the risk of disease.

The researchers, who have just published the study in an article in the American Journal of Epidemiology, have followed approx. 83,000 women aged between 34 and 59 over a period of 16 years.

The researchers found the highest risk of getting cardiovascular disease and breast cancer in women who received only a small amount of folic acid – 180 micrograms – daily, and who also had a high alcohol consumption of 30 grams of alcohol a day or 2.5  Danish unit of alcohol. The greatest risk was found in women under 60 years of age.

Conversely, women who did not drink alcohol and received a lot of folic acid – 400-599 micrograms daily – had the lowest risk of developing the same diseases.

Against this background the Vitality Council comes with a call for women who drink more than 2-3 units of alcohol a day or 17-18 units of alcohol a week. Partly to reduce the intake of alcohol in accordance with the Danish Health and Medicines Authority’s recommendations and partly to take an extra supplement of folic acid:

“To prevent the increased risk of cardiovascular disease and breast cancer, women with a daily alcohol consumption should consider taking a folic acid supplement,” says Vitality Council Chairman, Specialist in general medicine, Claus Hancke.

“Thus, we do not want to encourage women to continue drinking. As the risk is significantly increased and the statistics show that about 15 percent or every sixth woman in the age group drinks more than the National Board of Health’s recommended maximum of 14 units of alcohol per week, one should take this seriously” the chairman of the Vitality Council points out.

As it is difficult to get enough folic acid through the diet, it is recommended to take a vitamin pill or a multivitamin tablet with folic acid. In the diet, especially vegetables like broccoli and kale are rich in folic acid.

The Danish National Board of Health already recommends pregnant women take approx. 400 micrograms of folic acid daily to prevent spina bifida in children.

By. Vitality Council

American Journal of Epedemiology 2003;158:760-771.

Hesitation in the Health Sector costs lives!

June 2, 2003

According to the British Medical Journal thousands of deaths in Denmark are due to the authorities not  being willing to take the available documentation on folic acid  into account.

350,000 deaths due to cardiovascular disease could have been avoided the last ten years if the British authorities had used the available knowledge about the effect of folic acid, according to the British Medical Journal who refers from a London conference (BMJ 2003; 326: 1054).

Here, Professor Godfrey Oakley said, among other things:
“By not requiring mandatory addition of folic acid to the flour, the authorities have committed a fatal health policy error.” Oakley has the support of a number of colleagues, and cardiologist David Wald recommends, for example, that you take a dietary supplement of 800 µg of folic acid a day until the authorities do something about it.


By: Vitality Council.


BMJ 2003;326:1054.
Canadian Medical Association Journal 2002;167:241-5.