VITAMIN B HEART FEAR; Warning over Supplements Taken by Thousands of Women

Article excerpt

Byline: JENNY HOPE

WOMEN were warned yesterday that taking B vitamins to ward off a heart attack fails to work and may increase the risk.

The possible dangers of taking high doses of vitamin B6 and folic acid together were highlighted by researchers carrying out the biggest study of its kind.

They found that heart attack survivors who took a combination of B vitamins for three years were more likely to develop a range of problems including second heart attacks and strokes.

There was also a possible increase in the risk of developing cancer, said Norwegian researchers at the European Society of Cardiology meeting in Stockholm, Sweden.

The experts say the study's findings would apply to men as much as women, although men are less likely to take vitamin B6 or folic acid.

Professor Kaare Harald Bonaa, of the University of Tromso, who led the research, said some doctors were treating heart patients with B vitamins despite the paucity of supporting evidence.

He said: 'In the last 15 years, interest in

vitamin B research has rocketed worldwide because studies indicated folic acid and vitamin B6 could prevent heart disease and stroke.

'But we have found treatment with B vitamins does not prevent heart attacks, contrary to expectations, and may do more harm than good.

'Prescribing high doses of B vitamins will not prevent heart disease or stroke and they should be prescribed only to patients who have B vitamin deficiency diseases.' Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director of the British Heart Foundation, was equally concerned.

He said: 'People should not be taking folic acid and vitamin B6 to stop them having a heart attack because it won't.

'The study shows a significant increase in heart attacks and strokes.'

Millions take vitamin B supplements every day under the impression it will boost their health, with B6 one of the most popular products on the market.

Around two million women use it to combat premenstrual syndrome, alleviate morning sickness and combat the side effects of the Pill.

More than a million men take it to fight stress and improve energy levels.

Older women have started taking folic acid as a preventive for heart disease. Around 117,000 heart attacks occur in British women each year.

The Norwegian study looked at tackling high levels of a naturally occurring amino acid in the blood which it was suspected could trigger heart disease by damaging the lining of arteries and making blood more likely to clot. …