Folic acid supplements may be an inexpensive alternative for helping older adults to increase skin blood flow during heat waves and reduce cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke, suggests a new research.

The study published online in the journal Clinical Science showed that supplemental folic acid can enhance blood vessel dilation in older adults.

“We know that when older adults are exposed to heat, their bodies are not able to increase skin blood flow to the same extent that young subjects do, and as a consequence, older adults are at a greater risk for cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke, during environmental heat waves,” explained Anna Stanhewicz, post-doctoral fellow at the Pennsylvania State University.


Researchers know this is due, in part, to aged blood vessels that cannot produce enough nitric oxide, Stanhewicz said.

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Nitric oxide is the molecule produced by the blood vessels using an enzyme that requires tetrahydrobiopterin — BH4. As people age, BH4 bioavailability decreases, Stanhewicz said.

Folic acid increases the bioavailability of BH4 in the body, so in this study researchers believe that folic acid increased nitric oxide production by increasing BH4, Stanhewicz said.

Researchers tested very healthy older adults in order to isolate the affect of age without other cardiovascular diseases. The participants received both folic acid and lactated ringer’s solution, a placebo, at randomised sites on their arms so that they could serve as their own controls.

“The bottom line is that folic acid supplementation increased nitric oxide production in older blood vessels,” Stanhewicz said. Folic acid is vitamin B that every cell in your body needs for normal growth and development. When folic acid is naturally in a food, it’s called folate.

Some good sources of folate are beans, like lentils, pinto beans and black beans; leafy green vegetables, like spinach and asparagus, broccoli; peanuts; citrus fruits, like oranges and grapefruit among others.

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