Background: Experimental and epidemiological evidence suggests that homocysteine (tHcy) may be a causal risk factor for atherosclerosis. B-vitamin supplements reduce tHcy and improve endothelial function in short term trials, but the long-term effects of the treatment on vascular structure and function are unknown.
Methods: We conducted a sub-study of VITATOPS, a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled intervention trial designed to test the efficacy of long term B-vitamin supplementation (folic acid 2 mg, vitamin B6 25 mg and vitamin B12 0.5 mg) in the prevention of vascular events in patients with a history of stroke. We measured carotid intima-medial thickness (CIMT) and flow-mediated dilation (FMD) at least two years after randomisation in 162 VITATOPS participants. We also conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies designed to test the effect of B-vitamin treatment on CIMT and FMD.
Results: After a mean treatment period of 3.9 ± 0.9 years, the vitamin-treated group had a significantly lower mean plasma homocysteine concentration than the placebo-treated group (7.9 μmol/L, 95% CI 7.5 to 8.4 versus 11.8 μmol/L, 95% CI 10.9 to 12.8, p < 0.001). Post-treatment CIMT (0.84 ± 0.17 mm vitamins versus 0.83 ± 0.18 mm placebo, p = 0.74) and FMD (median of 4.0%, IQR 0.9 to 7.2 vitamins versus 3.0%, IQR 0.6 to 6.6 placebo, p = 0.48) did not differ significantly between groups. A meta-analysis of published randomised data, including those from the current study, suggested that B-vitamin supplements should reduce CIMT (-0.10 mm, 95% CI -0.20 to -0.01 mm) and increase FMD (1.4%, 95% CI 0.7 to 2.1%). However, the improvement in endothelial function associated with homocysteine-lowering treatment was significant in short-term studies but not in longer trials.
Conclusion: Although short-term treatment with B-vitamins is associated with increased FMD, long-term homocysteine-lowering did not significantly improve FMD or CIMT in people with a history of stroke. © 2008 Potter et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.