The Role of Homocysteine-Lowering B-Vitamins in the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease

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Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of mortality in the Western world. The effort of research should aim at the primary prevention of CVD. Alongside statin therapy, which is maintained to be an effective method of CVD prevention, there are alternative methods such as vitamin B substitution therapy with folic acid (FA), and vitamins B12 and B6. B-vitamins may inhibit atherogenesis by decreasing the plasma level of homocysteine (Hcy)—a suspected etiological factor for atherosclerosis—and by other mechanisms, primarily through their antioxidant properties. Although Hcy-lowering vitamin trials have failed to demonstrate beneficial effects of B-vitamins in the prevention of CVD, a meta-analysis and stratification of a number of large vitamin trials have suggested their effectiveness in cardiovascular prevention (CVP) in some aspects. Furthermore, interpretation of the results from these large vitamin trials has been troubled by statin/aspirin therapy, which was applied along with the vitamin substitution, and FA fortification, both of which obscured the separate effects of vitamins in CVP. Recent research results have accentuated a new approach to vitamin therapy for CVP. Studies undertaken with the aim of primary prevention have shown that vitamin B substitution may be effective in the primary prevention of CVD and may also be an option in the secondary prevention of disease if statin therapy is accompanied by serious adverse effects. Further investigations are needed to determine the validity of vitamin substitution therapy before its introduction in the protocol of CVD prevention.

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