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Study backs folic acid for all

GP have been advised to recommend folic acid-rich foods and supplements for all patients

after the strategy was backed by a new analysis.

Researchers said the evidence was 'sufficient to justify action' after finding use of folic acid could be a cheap and effective way of cutting heart disease rates, writes Lilian Anekwe.

The team from the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, including one of the researchers behind the proposed polypill, analysed evidence for the link between raised concentrations of serum homocysteine and ischaemic heart disease and stroke.

Their analysis, published in this week's BMJ, found the data supported wider use of folic acid, which reduces homocysteine concentrations.

They concluded the data suggested 'a short-term protective effect of 12 per cent on ischae-mic heart disease and 22 per cent on stroke'.

Dr David Wald, one of the researchers on the study and consultant cardiologist at Barts and the London Hospital, suggested GPs should recommend folic acid to all patients – including those not identified as being at cardiovascular risk.

'GPs are in a trusted position and could easily say to their patients ''go out and get it if you want to do all that you can to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease'',' he said.

Some GPs were sceptical.

Dr John Pittard, a GP in Staines and CHD lead for North Surrey PCT, said the evidence did not strike him as a 'compelling' public health issue.

'On an individual patient basis, there's no harm in taking folic acid. It's down to individual patient choice, otherwise we're in danger of medicalising everything when sometimes things should be more common-sense.'

But Dr Wald denied his conclusions were a call for medicalising the worried well.

'People have a choice wheth-er to take on habits that reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease or not. The most efficient and effective way is to alter the public health message, and to increase folate in the diet.'

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