Acute effect of folic acid, betaine, and serine supplements on flow-mediated dilation after methionine loading: A randomized trial

M.R. Olthof, M.L. Bots, M.B. Katan, P. Verhoef

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objectives: We investigated whether reducing post-methionine homocysteine concentrations via various treatments other than folic acid affects vascular function, as measured through flow-mediated dilation (FMD) of the brachial artery. High fasting and post-methionine homocysteine concentrations are associated with cardiovascular disease risk, but homocysteine might be a surrogate marker for low folate status. Design: This was a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover study. Setting: The study took place at Wageningen University in Wageningen in the Netherlands. Participants: Participants were 39 apparently healthy men and women, aged 50 - 70 y. Interventions: Participants ingested 10 mg of folic acid, 3 g of betaine, 5 g of serine, and placebo together with an oral methionine load. Each supplement was tested on two different days. Outcome Measures: On each of the eight treatment days, plasma homocysteine concentrations and FMD were measured before ( t = 0 h, fasting) and 6 h ( t = 6 h) after methionine loading. Results: The mean (+/- SD) fasting homocysteine concentrations averaged over the eight test days were 9.6 +/- 62.1 mu mol/l. Mean fasting FMD was 3.1 +/- 2.4 FMD%. A methionine load with placebo increased homocysteine concentrations by 17.2 +/- 9.3 mu mol/l at 6 h after loading, similar to the increase following methionine loading with folic acid. A methionine load together with betaine and with serine increased homocysteine by 10.4 +/- 2.8 mu mol/l ( p<0.001 relative to placebo) and by 12.1 +/- 8.2 mu mol/l ( p<0.001 relative to placebo), respectively. Methionine loading with placebo did not affect FMD, and neither did methionine loading with folic acid, betaine, or serine; differences relative to placebo were +0.7 FMD% (95% CI, - 0.6; 1.9), +0.2 FMD% (- 1.0; 1.3), and +0.3 FMD% ( - 0.8; 1.4), respectively. Conclusions: Experimentally induced acute changes in homocysteine concentrations did not affect FMD in healthy volunteers. This implies that potential adverse effects of high homocysteine concentrations on the cardiovascular system are not mediated through vascular function. However, homocysteine or folate may affect cardiovascular disease risk through other mechanisms.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere4
JournalPloS Clinical trials
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • coronary-artery-disease
  • vascular endothelial dysfunction
  • homocysteine-lowering therapy
  • placebo-controlled trial
  • ischemic-heart-disease
  • healthy-human subjects
  • saturated fatty-acids
  • plasma homocysteine
  • dependent vasodilation
  • cardiovascular events


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