BACKGROUND: Dietary supplementation with folic acid and vitamin B12 lowers blood homocysteine concentrations by about 25% to 30% in populations without routine folic acid fortification of food and by about 10% to 15% in populations with such fortification. In observational studies, 25% lower homocysteine has been associated with about 10% less coronary heart disease (CHD) and about 20% less stroke. METHODS: We reviewed the design and statistical power of 12 randomized trials assessing the effects of lowering homocysteine with B-vitamin supplements on risk of cardiovascular disease. RESULTS: Seven of these trials are being conducted in populations without fortification (5 involving participants with prior CHD and 2 with prior stroke) and 5 in populations with fortification (2 with prior CHD, 2 with renal disease, and 1 with prior stroke). These trials may not involve sufficient number of vascular events or last long enough to have a good chance on their own to detect reliably plausible effects of homocysteine lowering on cardiovascular risk. But, taken together, these 12 trials involve about 52,000 participants: 32,000 with prior vascular disease in unfortified populations and 14,000 with vascular disease and 6000 with renal disease in fortified populations. Hence, a combined analysis of these trials should have adequate power to determine whether lowering homocysteine reduces the risk of cardiovascular events within just a few years. CONCLUSION: The strength of association of homocysteine with risk of cardiovascular disease may be weaker than had previously been believed. Extending the duration of treatment in these trials would allow any effects associated with prolonged differences in homocysteine concentrations to emerge. Establishing a prospective meta-analysis of the ongoing trials of homocysteine lowering should ensure that reliable information emerges about the effects of such interventions on cardiovascular disease outcomes.

Original publication





Am Heart J

Publication Date





282 - 287


Cardiovascular Diseases, Folic Acid, Homocysteine, Homocystinuria, Humans, Kidney Diseases, Myocardial Infarction, Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic, Stroke, Vitamin B Complex