We are constantly learning more about the health benefits of B vitamins. And now, research shows that the B vitamin folic acid may be a natural, inexpensive way to help you keep your cool in the summer heat.
And help reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke to boot.
How can a simple vitamin serve as an internal air conditioner? Well, it all has to do with our blood vessels.
What B can do for you
As I wrote in the March issue of Insiders’ Cures, B vitamins have been shown in studies to help prevent blood vessel damage. Which may stop atherosclerosis and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. In fact, raising your B vitamin levels and managing your blood pressure are two of the most important steps you can take to dramatically reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
Bs also have other effects on blood vessels. For instance, you probably know about the flushing that can occur in your chest and neck when you take the B vitamin niacin. This flushing is completely harmless, but doctors use it as an excuse to give patients dangerous statin drugs instead of natural niacin. Even though niacin has been shown in study after study to reduce cholesterol.
Overall, B vitamins help our blood vessels stay healthy. And, of course, we need healthy vessels to keep our blood flowing smoothly. Which leads me to the new study.
The heat buster that’s just as good as pricey pharmaceuticals
One way our bodies help cool themselves is to shift blood closer to the skin, where the heat can be released more easily. We do this cooling by dilating the blood vessels through the production of nitric oxide. (That’s why nitroglycerin—a form of nitric oxide—has been a standby for nearly two centuries for dilating the coronary arteries and increasing blood flow to the heart).
But older adults have a harder time producing nitric oxide. Which gives us a greater chance of suffering heart attacks and strokes when the temperature rises.
The researchers behind this new study had previously discovered that a substance called tetrahydrobiopterin, or BH4, helps our bodies produce nitric oxide.1
Folic acid helps produce BH4, so the researchers decided to find out if giving people extra folic acid would improve their blood flow and help them fight heat-related strokes and heart attacks.
They did two tests on 11 people with an average age of 71, and 11 people with an average age of 22. First, they put folic acid or placebo patches on the participants’ skin. Then, they took the patches off and put the people in a type of wetsuit to control their skin temperatures. And they gave them either a placebo or 5 mg of folic acid a day for six weeks.
The researchers discovered that both of the tests increased the blood vessel dilation of the older participants, but not the younger ones. And the folic acid supplements were just as effective as the patches. Plus, the researchers found that folic acid showed the same effect on nitric oxide production as an expensive pharmaceutical drug.
Which just goes to show that after trying everything else, we can almost always count on coming back to natural approaches like B vitamin supplementation for safe, simple, and affordable solutions to staying healthy.
That’s why I suggest you help beat the heat of the “dog days” of summer by taking a high-quality B vitamin supplement. One that contains at least 400 micrograms of folic acid.
And don’t stop when the temperature drops. A lifelong regimen of B supplementation can do wonders for your circulation, heart, and blood vessels.
1“Cellular and molecular mechanisms of statins: an update on pleiotropic effects.” Clin Sci (Lond). 2015 Jul 1;129(2):93-105.