Folic acid found to safeguard diabetic heart

June 14th, 2008 - 2:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, June 14 (IANS) Folic acid has been found to protect the heart muscle from the onslaught of high glucose levels experienced by diabetics. The team from Charles Sturt University (CSU) in Australia and China’s Guangzhou Red Cross Hospital and Taishan Medical College found during trials on diabetic rats that the use of folic acid significantly reduces the rate of cardiac cell death.

“The study in a diabetic animal model showed that dietary folic acid supplementation for 11 weeks will substantially diminish the rate of cardiac cell death,” said Lexin Wang from CSU.

“The study also found that folic acid enhances the expression of cell-death-prevention genes and suppresses cell-death-inducing genes in heart muscles.

“This study is the first of this kind in the world and such a therapeutic role of folic acid has never been reported,” said Wang.

Up to a third of the cardiac cells can be destroyed or damaged as a result of high blood glucose levels experienced by diabetics.

“These are extremely exciting discoveries because for a very long time we did not have much of success in steering the heart away from the insult of high levels of blood glucose, in particular in the early stages of the cardiovascular disease process.

“Now with a short course of folic acid treatment, we see a clear cut reduction in the death rates of cardiac cells. More importantly, the biology of the surviving cardiac cells is also improved, making these cells and muscles more resistant to future injuries from diabetes,” said Wang.

Diabetes is one of the most important risk factors for cardiovascular disease in the world. There is an increased risk of heart failure largely due to the development of diabetic heart muscle disease.

Can this novel research be translated to bedside patient care?

“Only time will tell. Given the sheer scale of diabetes as a preventable disease in all societies, in particular in fast growing countries like China and India, I think a large clinical trial on the clinical efficacy of folic acid is warranted,” said Wang.

The study has been published in Cardiovascular Drugs and Therapy.

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