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BACKGROUND: The relevance of folic acid for stroke prevention in low-folate populations such as in China is uncertain. Genetic studies of the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) C677T polymorphism, which increases plasma homocysteine (tHcy) levels, could clarify the causal relevance of elevated tHcy levels for stroke, ischaemic heart disease (IHD) and other diseases in populations without folic acid fortification. METHODS: In the prospective China Kadoorie Biobank, 156 253 participants were genotyped for MTHFR and 12 240 developed a stroke during the 12-year follow-up. Logistic regression was used to estimate region-specific odds ratios (ORs) for total stroke and stroke types, IHD and other diseases comparing TT genotype for MTHFR C677T (two thymine alleles at position 677 of MTHFR C677T polymorphism) vs CC (two cytosine alleles) after adjustment for age and sex, and these were combined using inverse-variance weighting. RESULTS: Overall, 21% of participants had TT genotypes, but this varied from 5% to 41% across the 10 study regions. Individuals with TT genotypes had 13% (adjusted OR 1.13, 95% CI 1.09-1.17) higher risks of any stroke [with a 2-fold stronger association with intracerebral haemorrhage (1.24, 1.17-1.32) than for ischaemic stroke (1.11, 1.07-1.15)] than the reference CC genotype. In contrast, MTHFR C677T was unrelated to risk of IHD or any other non-vascular diseases, including cancer, diabetes and chronic obstructive lung disease. CONCLUSIONS: In Chinese adults, the MTHFR C677T polymorphism was associated with higher risks of stroke. The findings warrant corroboration by further trials of folic acid and implementation of mandatory folic acid fortification programmes for stroke prevention in low-folate populations.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Epidemiol

Publication Date





1862 - 1869


MTHFR, China, Mendelian randomization, folate, homocysteine, stroke, Adult, Humans, Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase (NADPH2), Prospective Studies, Brain Ischemia, Stroke, Folic Acid, Genotype, Coronary Artery Disease, Homocysteine