With all the problems we’ve had so far in 2020, it’s easy to forget that warm days are upon us. The searing summer heat can seem insignificant compared to all the wars, environmental, and health crises we’ve been dealing with, but summer heats do kill, both in the city and in rural areas.
There are many things we can do to prevent heat strokes. Aside from the usual advice, here we’ll mention one vitamin that can help you get through the summer heatwaves – folate.
Folate is the vitamin B that’s found in green leafy vegetables. According to scientists at Penn State, it can be of great assistance against warm weather as it helps to keep our blood moving.
Why does that matter?
One of the major problems with summer heatwaves is that they both overheat and dehydrate our bodies. Having a strong and well-functioning cardiovascular system is crucial for dealing with that. Unfortunately, not only are cardiovascular problems common in the U.S., but middle-aged and older people also have trouble dealing with sharp temperature changes.
The reason here is that older blood vessels have problems dilating which slows their circulation. And since one of the main functions of our blood circulation is to act as a cooling system for our bodies, that can be an issue. Fortunately, that’s exactly what vitamin B folate helps with.
How does it work?
One of the key benefits of vitamin B folate is that it stimulates the production of an enzyme called tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4). That enzyme is crucial for a lot of things including the production of nitric oxide in our bodies. And it’s that nitric oxide which helps widen our blood vessels and thus – improve our blood circulation.
“We know that when older adults are exposed to heat, their bodies are not able to increase skin blood flow to the same extent that young subjects do, and as a consequence, older adults are at a greater risk for cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke, during environmental heat waves,” says Penn State researcher Anna Stanhewicz.
Anna Stanhewicz also goes on to explain that this is a bigger problem for middle-aged and older people as their bodies produce less nitric oxide.
“When young, healthy people are exposed to heat, their bodies increase blood flow to the skin, and this increased flow, combined with sweating, helps to cool the body down.”
That’s why the Penn State researchers used folate in their studies. Or, more accurately, they used folic acid which is a synthetic form of folate. Their study also showed that standard vitamin B can be used to the same effect.
“The bottom line is that folic acid supplementation increased nitric oxide production in older blood vessels,” Stanhewicz says. “In the past, studies conducted in our lab showed that we can increase nitric oxide production, and then consequently reflex skin blood flow, in older adults by giving them an expensive pharmaceutical. So in this study, we wanted to test that again, but with an inexpensive treatment that might work the same way.”
In their research, Stanhewicz and her colleagues gave the participants 5 milligrams of folic acid to a great effect. Still, the Penn State scientists remind us that just taking vitamin B supplements isn’t a substitute for a healthy diet. Ideally, you should still make sure to eat leafy greens every day, as well as to take vitamin B and staying well-hydrated.