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Personal Nutrition: Vitamin B may offer blood pressure benefits to 1 in 10 people

By Nathan Gray , 15-May-2012
Last updated on 15-May-2012 at 18:30 GMT

Increased intake of vitamin B2 (riboflavin) could significantly lower blood pressure in around 10 percent of people, according to new research that links a common genetic factor with the vitamin.

The study – published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition – reveals that around one in ten people could significantly lower their blood pressure and, in turn, their risk of heart disease and stroke by increasing their intake of vitamin B2.

Led by Dr Carol Wilson from the Northern Ireland Centre for Food and Health (NICHE) at the University of Ulster, the researchers discovered that vitamin B2 – commonly found in dairy products – can significantly reduce high blood pressure (hypertension) which is often linked to a particular genetic factor found in around 10% of the population. 

“In the genetically at-risk group, vitamin B2 was able to lower blood pressure to within recommended target values while having no adverse effects on individuals who didn’t have the gene,” said Wilson.

“The response occurred irrespective of any blood pressure lowering drugs being taken by the study participants.” 

Wilson said her findings are ‘so exciting’ because they focus on novel non-drug treatments for high blood pressure – targeted at individuals with a particular genetic factor: “The blood pressure lowering response described in this research paper is hugely relevant in terms of its clinical implications," she added.
“The extent of blood pressure reduction translates into a 30% predicted reduction in the risk of stroke death in the at-risk group. It would take about 10 kilos of weight loss to achieve the blood pressuring lowering that was reported in our findings.” 

Personal Nutrition

Study co-author Dr Mary Ward – also from the University of Ulster – said the study “is an excellent example of personalised nutrition, i.e. nutrition advice tailored to an individual based on their genetic characteristics.”

“A major strength of the research is that the lowering in blood pressure we found in this genetic group was as good as that generally achieved with drugs, yet it occurred in response to levels of vitamin B2 close to what a good diet could provide,” she said.

Professor Helene McNulty, who also worked on the research explained that vitamin B2 is found in rich supply in milk and dairy foods – but noted that adults often don’t eat adequate amounts of these in their diet.

“Increasing vitamin B2 intakes through improved diet, fortified foods or supplements could lower blood pressure in the 10% of the population with the relevant genetic factor without causing harm to those who do not have it.”  

Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
volume 95, Number 3, Pages 766-772,
“Riboflavin offers a targeted strategy for managing hypertension in patients with theMTHFR 677TT genotype: a 4-y follow-up”
Authors: C.P Wilson, M. Ward, H. McNulty, J.J Strain, T.G Trouton, et al

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