Folic acid supplementation is essential in postmenopausal women, as it improves endothelial function and cures hot flushes. Vitamin B9 is able to improve the metabolism of insulin and lipids, which leads to a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases. This is achieved by decreasing homocysteine levels in blood. Studies also show a connection between folic acid and the risk of developing breast cancer after menopause.
Treatment for Hot Flushes
Vitamin B9 has an effect that is similar to that of antidepressant medication. This led to the conclusion that folic acid interacts with various types of receptors in the brain. Hot flushes, a common symptom in postmenopausal women, are caused by disorders in the thermoregulatory center. By influencing the norepinephrine (noradrenaline) and serotonin levels in the brain, folic acid is in fact capable of ameliorating hot flushes. In order to achieve this effect, women are recommended to take supplements that contain at least 400 mcg of vitamin B9.
Vitamin B9 and Cardiovascular Disease
According to several studies realized by the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and the Institute of Biological Chemistry from the Catholic University of Sacred Heart, Rome, Italy, folic acid influences the metabolism of homocysteine and glycolipids. In women with vitamin B9 deficiencies, blood serum homocysteine levels tend to increase, leading to a high risk of cardiovascular disease. Folic acid decreases these levels by improving the endothelial function, which means that it reestablishes the balance between the vasoconstricting and vasodilating substances in the inner lining of the blood vessels.
Supplementation with folic acid does not only reduce plasma homocysteine levels, but it also increases the HDL (high density lipoprotein) levels, which furthermore helps in the prevention of adverse cardiovascular events. The improved insulin and lipid metabolism, which is also a result of vitamin B9 supplementation, additionally supports the prevention of health conditions affecting the circulatory system.
Prevention of Postmenopausal Breast Cancer
In the beginning, scientists suspected that vitamin B9 may actually have a harmful effect and may increase the risk of breast cancer. A Swedish study conducted in 2007 revealed contrary effects, as the conclusion was that folic acid can in fact lowers the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer. A study conducted a year later showed no relevant connection between the risk of developing this type of cancer and folic vitamin B9 supplementation. Alone, folic acid may not influence the incidence of breast cancer, but other studies suggest that the risk lowers in women who consume alcohol moderately. A daily dose of at least 300 mcg of folic acid, correlated with daily consumption of alcohol of at least 15 g can help women to achieve this result.
Another study conducted in Sweden in 2006 concluded that folic acid can also decrease the risk of pancreatic cancer. However, this does not apply only to menopausal women, but to all adults. The source of vitamin B9 played a major role in this study, as it was shown that foods rich in folic acid are far more effective than supplements.