Folate levels determine effect of antioxidant supplementation on micronuclei in subjects with cardiovascular risk

Mutagenesis. 2004 Nov;19(6):469-76. doi: 10.1093/mutage/geh059.


We have investigated the effect of modest supplementation with alpha-tocopherol (100 mg/day), beta-carotene (6 mg/day), vitamin C (100 mg/day) and selenium (50 microg/day) on oxidative stress and chromosomal damage, and the influence of methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) genotype on these end-points. Subjects were two groups of middle-aged men differing in cardiovascular risk; 46 survivors of myocardial infarction before age 50 and 60 healthy controls. They were randomly divided into equal groups to receive antioxidants or placebo for 12 weeks. Twenty-eight patients and 58 controls completed the intervention. Micronucleus levels in peripheral lymphocytes and changes seen after intervention were studied in relation to the MTHFR C677T genotype, basal homocysteine and plasma folate levels. Ferric reducing ability of plasma and concentration of malondialdehyde were measured to assess the antioxidant effect of supplementation. There was no association of micronuclei with folate, homocysteine or malondialdehyde levels before supplementation. Micronucleus frequencies and plasma folate levels did not vary significantly with MTHFR genotype. Homocysteine levels in subjects with the TT variant genotype were significantly higher compared with CT or CC (P = 0.001), especially in subjects with low folate (P = 0.012). In the placebo control group an increase in micronuclei (P = 0.04) was detected at the end of the intervention period. This effect was not seen in the supplemented group. In antioxidant-supplemented myocardial infarction survivors we found an increase in the ferric reducing ability of plasma (P < 0.001) and a decrease in malondialdehyde (P = 0.001). Micronucleus frequency showed a decrease, strongest in subjects with normal folate levels (P = 0.015). In subjects with low folate levels, a high correlation was found between micronuclei after supplementation and homocysteine, both before (r = 0.979, P = 0.002) and after supplementation (r = 0.922, P = 0.009). Thus, folate deficiency may amplify the effect of other risk factors such as elevated homocysteine levels or variant MTHFR genotype, as well as influencing the ability of antioxidant supplementation to protect against genetic damage.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Ascorbic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Ascorbic Acid / pharmacology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • DNA Damage*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Folic Acid / blood*
  • Folic Acid / metabolism
  • Folic Acid Deficiency / metabolism
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase (NADPH2) / genetics
  • Micronucleus Tests
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Infarction / genetics
  • Myocardial Infarction / prevention & control
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*
  • Selenium / administration & dosage
  • Selenium / pharmacology
  • alpha-Tocopherol / administration & dosage
  • alpha-Tocopherol / pharmacology
  • beta Carotene / administration & dosage
  • beta Carotene / pharmacology


  • Antioxidants
  • beta Carotene
  • Folic Acid
  • Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase (NADPH2)
  • alpha-Tocopherol
  • Selenium
  • Ascorbic Acid