Health Team

Researchers study amino acid linked to artery disease

Posted August 19, 2008 5:55 p.m. EDT
Updated August 19, 2008 10:56 p.m. EDT

High levels of the amino acid homocysteine are often a risk factor for coronary artery disease. Researchers in Norway recently studied the effect of lowering those levels.

Researchers thought they could “lower the risk for having further heart attacks and related disease,” said Dr. Marta Ebbing, a researcher at the Haukeland University Hospital in Norway.

The study focused on more than 3,000 patients with coronary artery disease. Some received a daily dose of vitamin B-12, B-6 or folic acid. Others received a placebo or sugar pill.

Patients’ homocysteine levels were monitored for about three years.

“Although we lowered homocysteine by almost one-third, it did not seem to have any beneficial effects,” Ebbing said.

None of the various forms of B vitamins helped lower the risk of heart attacks, stroke or death, researchers found. Researchers said they did not see any adverse effects from the B vitamins either.

“Our findings might imply that homocysteine does not change the course of coronary artery disease, but it’s just a ... marker of increased risk in coronary artery disease patients,” Ebbing said.

Researchers said their findings were consistent with previous studies, but they feel further clinical trials involving B vitamins are necessary to better understand how they may impact patient health.

The study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.