Does folic acid decrease plasma homocysteine and improve endothelial function in patients with predialysis renal failure?
Thambyrajah J., Landray MJ., McGlynn FJ., Jones HJ., Wheeler DC., Townend JN.
BACKGROUND: Considerable evidence suggests that hyperhomocysteinemia is an independent vascular risk factor that promotes atherosclerosis by inducing endothelial dysfunction. Although folic acid reduces hyperhomocysteinemia, the effect on adverse vascular events is unknown. We hypothesized that in patients with chronic renal failure, a condition associated with both hyperhomocysteinemia and atherosclerosis, treatment with folic acid would improve endothelial function. METHODS AND RESULTS: In a prospective, double-blind protocol, 100 patients (mean age 62 years, 67 men) with predialysis chronic renal failure were randomized to 5 mg folic acid or placebo daily for 12 weeks. Endothelial function was assessed by measuring (1) endothelium-dependent dilation of the brachial artery, (2) combined serum nitrite/nitrate concentrations, and (3) plasma von Willebrand factor concentration. Baseline characteristics of the 2 groups were similar. At the end of the study, both serum and red cell folate concentrations were greater in the folic acid group than the placebo group [mean (95% CI) 39.0 (29.8 to 51.0) versus 7.7 (6.6 to 8.9) microg/L and 739 (613 to 891) versus 220 (184 to 262) microg/L, respectively; both P<0.001]. Despite a reduction in hyperhomocysteinemia in the folic acid group compared with the placebo group [15.1 (14.1 to 16.2) versus 20.1 (18.2 to 22.2) micromol/L; P<0.001], there were no significant differences in endothelium-dependent dilation, combined serum nitrite/nitrate concentrations, or plasma von Willebrand factor concentration between the 2 groups. CONCLUSIONS: High-dose folic acid lowers but fails to normalize hyperhomocysteinemia in patients with predialysis chronic renal failure. This was not accompanied by an improvement of endothelial function and suggests that treatment with folic acid may not reduce the burden of vascular disease in uremia.