Homocysteine-lowering vitamin B treatment decreases cardiovascular events in hemodialysis patients

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In Italy, the mortality rate of hemodialysis patients is approximately 14% per year. Cardiovascular disease is the most important cause of morbidity and mortality in hemodialysis patients. High plasma homocysteine levels are commonly detected in these patients, but hyperhomocysteinemia and cardiovascular mortality are not always strictly correlated. The Dialysis Outcomes and Practice Pattern Study (DOPPS) showed a direct association between regular use of water-soluble vitamins and lower cardiovascular mortality. We recently performed a long-term prospective trial to study the effects of folic acid therapy on cardiovascular events in hemodialysis patients. We observed not only a lower rate of combined cardiovascular events in patients treated with folate, but also a direct correlation between hyperhomocysteinemia and cardiovascular morbidity. On the contrary, the distribution of deaths was similar in treated and untreated patients, because, almost certainly, sudden death is not always due to atherosclerotic events, and non-cardiovascular deaths, such as cachexia, septicemia and malignancy were characterized by low levels of homocysteine, which may be, in addition, a nutritional index similar to albumin and protein catabolic rate. As it is known that diabetic hemodialysis patients have a higher mortality rate, but lower homocysteine levels as compared to non-diabetic patients, we performed an equal allocation of diabetic patients in treated and untreated groups. We observed a similar homocysteine reduction rate in diabetic patients as compared to non-diabetic patients, and a trend towards a lower rate of composite cardiovascular events in treated diabetic patients as compared to untreated diabetic patients. To summarize, the strong relationship between homocysteine and nutritional, inflammatory markers may hide its association with cardiovascular disease. Homocysteine-lowering vitamin B therapy may lower cardiovascular events in dialysis patients. It is mandatory to perform large prospective trials to confirm our results.

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