Folate and other B vitamins, already known to prevent severe birth defects and heart attacks, may also ward off broken bones from osteoporosis, two major studies suggest.
The findings of the studies – one in the Netherlands and one of the United States – underscore doctors’ longstanding recommendation that people take multivitamins.
They could also further support the US government’s decision to require bread and cereal makers to fortify their products with folate, also known as folic acid.
B vitamins are known to reduce levels of homocysteine, an amino acid already linked, at high levels, to an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes and Alzheimer’s disease. Now research shows high levels of homocysteine at least double the risk of osteoporosis-related fractures.
The report from the Netherlands found that the risk of such fractures was twice as high in men and women with homocysteine levels in the top 25%, compared with those with lower levels.
Similarly, a US study found the risk nearly quadrupled in the top 25% of men and nearly doubled in the top 25% of women.
“The basic way to keep your homocysteine down in a healthy range is to have plenty of B vitamins,” said Dr Douglas Kiel, senior author of the US study in Boston.
The studies were reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.