B vitamins for stroke prevention

Stroke Vasc Neurol. 2018 Jun 6;3(2):51-58. doi: 10.1136/svn-2018-000156. eCollection 2018 Jun.


Supplementation with B vitamins (vitamin B9(folic acid), vitamin B12 and vitamin B6) lowers blood total homocysteine (tHcy) concentrations by about 25% and reduces the relative risk of stroke overall by about 10% (risk ratio (RR) 0.90, 95% CI 0.82 to 0.99) compared with placebo. Homocysteine-lowering interventions have no significant effect on myocardial infarction, death from any cause or adverse outcomes. Factors that appear to modify the effect of B vitamins on stroke risk include low folic acid status, high tHcy, high cyanocobalamin dose in patients with impaired renal function and concurrent antiplatelet therapy. In regions with increasing levels or established policies of population folate supplementation, evidence from observational genetic epidemiological studies and randomised controlled clinical trials is concordant in suggesting an absence of benefit from lowering of homocysteine with folic acid for prevention of stroke. Clinical trials indicate that in countries which mandate folic acid fortification of food, folic acid supplementation has no significant effect on reducing stroke risk (RR 1.05, 95% CI 0.90 to 1.23). However, in countries without mandatory folic acid food fortification, folic acid supplementation reduces the risk of stroke by about 15% (RR 0.85, 95% CI 0.77 to 0.94). Folic acid alone or in combination with minimal cyanocobalamin (≤0.05 mg/day) is associated with an even greater reduction in risk of future stroke by 25% (RR 0.75, 95% CI 0.66 to 0.86), whereas the combination of folic acid and a higher dose of cyanocobalamin (≥0.4 mg/day) is not associated with a reduced risk of future stroke (RR 0.95, 95% CI 0.86 to 1.05). The lack of benefit of folic acid plus higher doses of cyanocobalamin (≥0.4 mg/day) was observed in trials which all included participants with chronic kidney disease. Because metabolic B12 deficiency is very common and usually not diagnosed, future randomised trials of homocysteine-lowering interventions for stroke prevention should probably test a combination of folic acid and methylcobalamin or hydroxocobalamin instead of cyanocobalamin, and perhaps vitamin B6.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diet, Healthy*
  • Dietary Supplements* / adverse effects
  • Food, Fortified*
  • Humans
  • Prognosis
  • Protective Factors
  • Recommended Dietary Allowances
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk Reduction Behavior*
  • Stroke / diagnosis
  • Stroke / epidemiology
  • Stroke / prevention & control*
  • Vitamin B Complex / administration & dosage*
  • Vitamin B Complex / adverse effects
  • Vitamin B Deficiency / diagnosis
  • Vitamin B Deficiency / epidemiology
  • Vitamin B Deficiency / prevention & control*


  • Vitamin B Complex