Aims/hypothesis: Patients with diabetes are characterised by endothelial dysfunction and cardiovascular mortality. In particular endothelium-derived nitric oxide has emerged as a first line mechanism against atherosclerosis. Hyperglycaemia causes oxygen radical stress but has also been associated with endothelial nitric oxide synthase uncoupling, both lead to decreased nitric oxide-availability. We recently showed that folate reverses eNOS uncoupling in vitro. Therefore we hypothesise that folate improves endothelial function in Type II (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus in vivo.
Methods: Using forearm plethysmography, we evaluated the effect of local, intra-arterial administration of 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF, the active form of folic acid, 1 microg/100 ml FAV/min) on forearm blood flow in 23 patients with Type II diabetes and 21 control subjects, matched for age, sex, blood pressure, body mass index, weight and smoking habits. Serotonin as a stimulator of nitric oxide-dependent vasodilation and sodium nitroprusside as a stimulator of endothelium-independent vasodilation were infused.
Results: Serotonin-induced vasodilation was blunted (53+/-30 vs 102+/-66 M/C%, p<0.005) and nitroprusside-induced vasodilation was mildly reduced (275+/-146 vs 391+/-203 M/C%, p<0.05) in patients with Type II diabetes compared to control subjects. 5-MTHF improved nitric oxide-mediated vasodilation (from 53+/-30 to 88+/-59 M/C%, p<0.05) in patients with Type II diabetes mellitus. As expected, 5-MTHF had no effect on forearm blood flow in control subjects.
Conclusion/interpretation: These data imply that folate can be used to improve nitric oxide status and to restore endothelial dysfunction in patients with Type II diabetes. Our results provide a strong rationale for the initiation of studies that investigate whether supplementation with folic acid prevents future cardiovascular events in this patient group.