Evidence shows that there is a rapid increase in the production of markers of oxidative damage immediately following acute stroke and that endogenous antioxidant defences are rapidly depleted, thus permitting further tissue damage. Several studies point to an antioxidant effect of B-group vitamins and a pro-oxidant effect of elevated plasma tHcy (total homocysteine). In the present study, we assessed whether supplementary B-group vitamins during this critical period will enhance antioxidant capacity and mitigate oxidative damage. Forty-eight patients with acute ischaemic stroke within 12 h of symptom onset were assigned to receive daily oral supplements of B-group vitamins comprising 5 mg of folate, 5 mg of vitamin B2, 50 mg of vitamin B6 and 0.4 mg of vitamin B12 (n=24) or no supplements (n=24) for 14 days. The treatment group and controls were matched for stroke subtype and age. Blood samples were obtained before intervention and also at 7 and 14 days post-recruitment for measurement of the following biomarkers: red cell folate (whole blood folate corrected with haematocrit), erythrocyte glutathione reductase activity coefficient (EGRAC; measure of vitamin B2 status), plasma pyridoxal phosphate (vitamin B6 status), plasma vitamin B12, plasma α-tocopherol, plasma ascorbic acid, plasma TAOC (total antioxidant capacity), plasma MDA (malondialdehyde), plasma tHcy and CRP (C-reactive protein). Supplementation for 14 days with B-group vitamins significantly increased the plasma concentrations of pyridoxal phosphate and red blood cell folate and improved a measure of B2 status compared with the control group (P<0.05). Plasma tHcy decreased in both groups albeit less in the control group, but differences in cumulative changes were not significant. There was, however, a decrease in plasma MDA concentration in the treatment group, in contrast with the increase seen in the control group and these differences were significant (P=0.05). CRP concentration, a marker of tissue inflammation, was significantly lower in the treatment group compared with controls (P<0.05). In conclusion, B-group vitamin supplementation immediately post-infarct may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in stroke disease independent of a homocysteine-lowering effect.

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