Folate deficiency is associated with oxidative stress, increased blood pressure, and insulin resistance in spontaneously hypertensive rats

Am J Hypertens. 2013 Jan;26(1):135-40. doi: 10.1093/ajh/hps015.


Background: The role of folate deficiency and associated hyperhomocysteinemia in the pathogenesis of metabolic syndrome is not fully established. In the current study, we analyzed the role of folate deficiency in pathogenesis of the metabolic syndrome in the spontaneously hypertensive rat (SHR).

Methods: Metabolic and hemodynamic traits were assessed in SHR/Ola rats fed either folate-deficient or control diet for 4 weeks starting at the age of 3 months.

Results: Compared to SHRs fed a folate-replete diet, SHRs fed a folate-deficient diet showed significantly reduced serum folate (104 ± 5 vs. 11 ± 1 nmol/L, P < 0.0005) and urinary folate excretion (4.3 ± 0.6 vs. 1.2 ± 0.1 nmol/16 h, P < 0.0005) together with a near 3-fold increase in plasma total homocysteine concentration (4.5 ± 0.1 vs 13.1 ± 0.7 μmol/L, P < 0.0005), ectopic fat accumulation in liver, and impaired glucose tolerance. Folate deficiency also increased systolic blood pressure by approximately 15 mm Hg (P < 0.01). In addition, the low-folate diet was accompanied by significantly reduced activity of antioxidant enzymes and increased concentrations of lipoperoxidation products in liver, renal cortex, and heart.

Conclusions: These findings demonstrate that the SHR model is susceptible to the adverse metabolic and hemodynamic effects of low dietary intake of folate. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that folate deficiency can promote oxidative stress and multiple features of the metabolic syndrome that are associated with increased risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Pressure
  • Folic Acid / metabolism
  • Folic Acid Deficiency / complications*
  • Glucose Intolerance / etiology
  • Hyperhomocysteinemia / etiology
  • Hypertension / etiology*
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology*
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome / etiology*
  • Oxidative Stress*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred SHR


  • Folic Acid