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Folic acid/vitamin B12

What Is It?

These two important B vitamins are often combined into one convenient product for preventing or treating myriad ailments, including anemia, tinnitus, and multiple sclerosis. 

In addition to being convenient, taking these two nutrients in combination prevents the risk that too much of one will mask a deficiency in the other. 

Folic Acid Reduces Risk of High Cholesterol

What the Study Showed
In a 1999 Dutch study published in the journal Circulation, researchers found that folic acid supplements helped reduce heart disease risk in patients suffering from an inherited tendency to high cholesterol. 

How It Was Done
The randomized, placebo-controlled double-blind study tested 20 patients with a history of high cholesterol; for the first five weeks, they were given either 5 mg of folic acid or a placebo. For the second five weeks, the subjects switched treatment groups. The ability of their blood vessels to dilate was tested before treatment began and again at the end of the study. 

Why It's Important
Studies have shown that patients with high cholesterol often suffer from the impaired ability of their blood vessels to dilate. This difficulty is often linked to an increased risk for high blood pressure and for blood clot formation. In this study, after four weeks of folic acid supplementation, blood vessels became more flexible and their ability to dilate improved. Researchers concluded that "oral folic acid therapy may provide a safe and inexpensive tool to reduce cardiovascular risk." They also noted that these results may be particularly important for individuals who don't respond to cholesterol-lowering medications. 

Additional Findings
Researchers also speculate that folic acid's antioxidant effects may also help explain the nutrient's benefit. Other studies have shown that in individuals with high cholesterol free radicals can damage a chemical essential for blood-vessel dilation. Antioxidants help minimize free-radical damage.