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Orange juice is a source of folate.

More Folic Acid in Diet Cuts Risk to Heart

By Judy McBride
February 10, 1997

Eating more fruits and vegetables or breakfast cereal that’s been fortified with folic acid can cut your risk of heart disease and stroke, scientists with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service say.

Fruits, vegetables and fortified cereal provide the greatest amounts of dietary folate, according to the researchers. Folic acid is a form of folate. The body uses folate to transform a substance in the blood called homocysteine into a nontoxic amino acid and prevent blood vessel damage. High blood levels of homocysteine have been linked to risk of heart disease or stroke.

In a study of 855 elderly men and women, the highest blood folate levels--and low homocysteine levels--were seen in those who ate five to six servings of fruits and vegetables or about one serving of breakfast cereal every day.

People who took dietary supplements of folate had the lowest homocysteine levels, but not much lower than those who frequently ate fruits, vegetables or fortified cereal. Study participants who ate less than three servings of fruits and vegetables daily and seldom ate cereal had the highest homocysteine levels.

Good natural sources of folate include orange juice and dark green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli and spinach.

The findings reinforce other studies that show people of all ages can reduce health risks just by changing their diet--especially important for the elderly, who often have low folate levels.

Scientific contact: Katherine A. Tucker, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts, Boston, MA, phone (617) 556-3351