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Folic acid handling by the human gut: implications for food fortification and supplementation123

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      Abstract

      Background: Current thinking, which is based mainly on rodent studies, is that physiologic doses of folic acid (pterylmonoglutamic acid), such as dietary vitamin folates, are biotransformed in the intestinal mucosa and transferred to the portal vein as the natural circulating plasma folate, 5-methyltetrahydrofolic acid (5-MTHF) before entering the liver and the wider systemic blood supply.Objective: We tested the assumption that, in humans, folic acid is biotransformed (reduced and methylated) to 5-MTHF in the intestinal mucosa.Design: We conducted a crossover study in which we sampled portal and peripheral veins for labeled folate concentrations after oral ingestion with physiologic doses of stable-isotope–labeled folic acid or the reduced folate 5-formyltetrahydrofolic acid (5-FormylTHF) in 6 subjects with a transjugular intrahepatic porto systemic shunt (TIPSS) in situ. The TIPSS allowed blood samples to be taken from the portal vein.Results: Fifteen minutes after a dose of folic acid, 80 ± 12% of labeled folate in the hepatic portal vein was unmodified folic acid. In contrast, after a dose of labeled 5-FormylTHF, only 4 ± 18% of labeled folate in the portal vein was unmodified 5-FormylTHF, and the rest had been converted to 5-MTHF after 15 min (postdose).Conclusions: The human gut appears to have a very efficient capacity to convert reduced dietary folates to 5-MTHF but limited ability to reduce folic acid. Therefore, large amounts of unmodified folic acid in the portal vein are probably attributable to an extremely limited mucosal cell dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) capacity that is necessary to produce tetrahydrofolic acid before sequential methylation to 5-MTHF. This process would suggest that humans are reliant on the liver for folic acid reduction even though it has a low and highly variable DHFR activity. Therefore, chronic liver exposure to folic acid in humans may induce saturation, which would possibly explain reports of systemic circulation of unmetabolized folic acid. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT02135393.

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      Prevention of the first occurrence of neural-tube defects by periconceptional vitamin supplementation.

      The risk of recurrent neural-tube defects is decreased in women who take folic acid or multivitamins containing such during the periconceptional period. The extent to which folic acid supplementation can reduce the first occurrence of defects is not known. We conducted a randomized, controlled trial of periconceptional multivitamin supplementation to test the efficacy of this treatment in reducing the incidence of a first occurrence of neural-tube defects. Women planning a pregnancy (in most cases their first) were randomly assigned to receive a single tablet of a vitamin supplement (containing 12 vitamins, including 0.8 mg of folic acid; 4 minerals; and 3 trace elements) or a trace-element supplement (containing copper, manganese, zinc, and a very low dose of vitamin C) daily for at least one month before conception and until the date of the second missed menstrual period or later. Pregnancy was confirmed in 4753 women. The outcome of the pregnancy (whether the fetus or infant had a neural-tube defect or congenital malformation) was known in 2104 women who received the vitamin supplement and in 2052 who received the trace-element supplement. Congenital malformations were significantly more prevalent in the group receiving the trace-element supplement than in the vitamin-supplement group (22.9 per 1000 vs. 13.3 per 1000, P = 0.02). There were six cases of neural-tube defects in the group receiving the trace-element supplement, as compared with none in the vitamin-supplement group (P = 0.029). The prevalence of cleft lip with or without cleft palate was not reduced by periconceptional vitamin supplementation. Periconceptional vitamin use decreases the incidence of a first occurrence of neural-tube defects.
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        Plasma homocysteine as a risk factor for dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

        In cross-sectional studies, elevated plasma homocysteine levels have been associated with poor cognition and dementia. Studies of newly diagnosed dementia are required in order to establish whether the elevated homocysteine levels precede the onset of dementia or result from dementia-related nutritional and vitamin deficiencies. A total of 1092 subjects without dementia (667 women and 425 men; mean age, 76 years) from the Framingham Study constituted our study sample. We examined the relation of the plasma total homocysteine level measured at base line and that measured eight years earlier to the risk of newly diagnosed dementia on follow-up. We used multivariable proportional-hazards regression to adjust for age, sex, apolipoprotein E genotype, vascular risk factors other than homocysteine, and plasma levels of folate and vitamins B12 and B6. Over a median follow-up period of eight years, dementia developed in 111 subjects, including 83 given a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. The multivariable-adjusted relative risk of dementia was 1.4 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.1 to 1.9) for each increase of 1 SD in the log-transformed homocysteine value either at base line or eight years earlier. The relative risk of Alzheimer's disease was 1.8 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.3 to 2.5) per increase of 1 SD at base line and 1.6 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.2 to 2.1) per increase of 1 SD eight years before base line. With a plasma homocysteine level greater than 14 micromol per liter, the risk of Alzheimer's disease nearly doubled. An increased plasma homocysteine level is a strong, independent risk factor for the development of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
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          Homocysteine and cardiovascular disease: evidence on causality from a meta-analysis.

          To assess whether the association of serum homocysteine concentration with ischaemic heart disease, deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, and stroke is causal and, if so, to quantify the effect of homocysteine reduction in preventing them. Meta-analyses of the above three diseases using (a) 72 studies in which the prevalence of a mutation in the MTHFR gene (which increases homocysteine) was determined in cases (n=16 849) and controls, and (b) 20 prospective studies (3820 participants) of serum homocysteine and disease risk. Odds ratios of the three diseases for a 5 micromol/l increase in serum homocysteine concentration. There were significant associations between homocysteine and the three diseases. The odds ratios for a 5 micromol/l increase in serum homocysteine were, for ischaemic heart disease, 1.42 (95% confidence interval 1.11 to 1.84) in the genetic studies and 1.32 (1.19 to 1.45) in the prospective studies; for deep vein thrombosis with or without pulmonary embolism, 1.60 (1.15 to 2.22) in the genetic studies (there were no prospective studies); and, for stroke, 1.65 (0.66 to 4.13) in the genetic studies and 1.59 (1.29 to 1.96) in the prospective studies. The genetic studies and the prospective studies do not share the same potential sources of error, but both yield similar highly significant results-strong evidence that the association between homocysteine and cardiovascular disease is causal. On this basis, lowering homocysteine concentrations by 3 micromol/l from current levels (achievable by increasing folic acid intake) would reduce the risk of ischaemic heart disease by 16% (11% to 20%), deep vein thrombosis by 25% (8% to 38%), and stroke by 24% (15% to 33%).
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [1 ]From the Institute of Cellular Medicine, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom (IP, MH, and DEJ); the Institute of Food Research, Norwich Research Park, Norwich, United Kingdom (MJK, MP, JRD, AJAW, and PMF); the Centre for Analytical Bioscience, School of Pharmacy, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, United Kingdom (DAB); and the Department of Radiology, Freeman Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom (JR and RJ).
            Author notes
            [2]

            Supported by the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (grants BB/F014104/1 and BB/FO14457/1). This is an open access article distributed under the CC-BY license ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/).

            [3 ]Address correspondence to DE Jones, Institute of Cellular Medicine, Fourth Floor, William Leech Building, Medical School, Framlington Place, Newcastle upon Tyne NE20 0SU, United Kingdom. E-mail: david.jones@ 123456ncl.ac.uk .
            Journal
            Am J Clin Nutr
            Am. J. Clin. Nutr
            ajcn
            The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
            American Society for Nutrition
            0002-9165
            1938-3207
            August 2014
            18 June 2014
            18 June 2014
            : 100
            : 2
            : 593-599
            24944062
            4095662
            080507
            10.3945/ajcn.113.080507

            This is an open access article distributed under the CC-BY license ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/).

            Counts
            Pages: 7
            Categories
            Vitamins, Minerals, and Phytochemicals

            Nutrition & Dietetics

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