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Women Who Run May Benefit From Extra Folic Acid

In athletes who stop menstruating, supplements boost vascular function, study finds

SUNDAY, May 31, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- High-dose folic acid supplementation improved vascular function in young female runners who stopped menstruating (amenorrhea) because their caloric intake was lower than their energy output, researchers say.

The findings suggest that folic acid may decrease cardiovascular risk and also improve performance in young female athletes, according to the Medical College of Wisconsin researchers.

"Previous studies have shown that amenorrheic women runners have decreased dilation in the main (brachial) artery of the arm in response to blood flow. Athletic amenorrhea has a hormonal profile similar to menopause, when the earliest sign of cardiovascular disease is reduced vascular dilation, which can limit oxygen uptake and affect performance," study author Dr. Stacy Lynch, a women's sports medicine fellow, said in a news release.

The study included 16 female college or recreational runners, aged 18 to 35, who weren't on birth control pills and had been running at least 20 miles a week for the past year. All the women were healthy, but six of them had reduced vascular function and irregular or absent menstrual periods.

The researchers measured the women's vascular function before and after four to six weeks of treatment with 10 milligrams a day of folic acid. At the end of that time, vascular function had returned to normal in the amenorrheic women and remained at normal levels in the other women.

The study was presented at a recent meeting of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, in Tampa, Fla.

Folic acid is used by the body to produce healthy red blood cells and prevent anemia.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has more about amenorrhea.

SOURCE: Medical College of Wisconsin, news release, May 30, 2009
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