Folic acid supplements have long been thought to have potential heart benefits, but a large new study suggests that they don't lower the risk of heart attacks or strokes.

Folic acid is a synthetic version of folate, a B vitamin essential to cell growth. (That's the reason pregnant women take folic acid to stave off birth defects.) Doctors have speculated that folic acid may improve heart health, because people with B-vitamin deficiencies often have high blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine, a marker of inflammation that has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease.

Folate is found in green vegetables and in grain products that have been fortified with folic acid. Those foods are often good for the heart -- but most likely due to other nutrients, such as cholesterol-lowering fiber.

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