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Folic acid cuts the risk of hypertension, particularly in young women, a new large-scale study reveals.

The Harvard research, which examined data on 156,000 nurses in two prospective cohort studies, strengthens evidence on the cardiovascular benefits of folate.

Researchers found the risk of hypertension in young women aged 27 to 44 who consumed at least 1mg per day of folate was 46 per cent lower than in women consuming less than 0.2mg per day.

Women aged 43 to 70 with high folate intake cut their hypertension risk by 18 per cent.

The study, published in this week's JAMA, re-examined prospective cohort studies of 93,803 younger women and 62,260 older women without a history of hypertension.

Baseline information on dietary folate and supplemental folic acid intake was derived from semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaires and updated every four years.

Overall researchers identified 7,373 incident cases of hypertension in younger women and 12,347 in older women.

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