NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Pretreatment with high doses of folate, water-soluble vitamin B obtained from food, can reduce damage to the heart muscle that is caused when the blood flow is cut off, the results of an animal study suggest.
In the study, published in the current addition of Circulation, rats were treated with folate or placebo. After 1 week, the rats' left coronary arteries were blocked for 30 minutes. The blood normally carries oxygen to the heart muscle, and a sudden, severe blockage can cause a heart attack or an abnormal heart rhythm, conditions that can be fatal.
This was followed by 90 minutes of reperfusion in some animals or no reperfusion in others. Reperfusion is the restoration of the coronary blood flow to the heart muscle. Although it is necessary to preserve or restore heart function, it can paradoxically cause a disturbance in the function of the cells in the heart muscle, called reperfusion injury.
Folate-treated rats experienced significantly less functional impairment of the heart than did the placebo-treated animals, senior author Dr. David A. Kass, from Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore, and colleagues found. On reperfusion, smaller areas of dead heart muscle were also noted in the animals pretreated with folate.
Further analysis suggested that folate may have achieved these beneficial effects, in part, by maintaining levels of the high-energy phosphates ATP and ADP in the heart.
"We want to emphasize that it is premature for people to begin taking high doses of (folate)," Kass said in a statement. "But if human studies prove equally effective, then high-dose folate could be given to high-risk groups to guard against possible heart attack or to people while they are having one."
SOURCE: Circulation, April 8, 2008.