Cardiovascular disease has a multifactorial aetiology that is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. Endothelial dysfunction is a key event in the pathogenesis of vascular disease that occurs before structural vascular changes or clinical symptoms are evident. Conventional risk factors, for example hypertension and diabetes mellitus, are associated with endothelial dysfunction, but the influence of other putative risk factors is not clear. The methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) C677T genotype, a common polymorphism that induces hyperhomocysteinaemia, has been proposed as being a genetic risk factor for cardiovascular disease. A total of 126healthy adults recruited by MTHFR C677T genotype (42 of each genotype, i.e. CC, CT and TT) underwent assessment of endothelial function. Brachial artery endothelium-dependent flow-mediated dilatation (FMD) was measured using high-resolution ultrasonic vessel ‘wall-tracking’. Using multiple regression analysis, MTHFR genotype and 21 other subject and subject-lifestyle variables were investigated as potential predictors of endothelial function. FMD was influenced positively by frequency of aerobic exercise and by hormone replacement therapy, and negatively by increases in systolic blood pressure. MTHFR C677T genotype and the associated variation in plasma homocysteine levels did not influence FMD. Additionally, other factors, including plasma cholesterol and self-supplementation with either antioxidant vitamins or cod liver oil, showed no significant relationship with FMD, although these findings are compromised by the narrow range studied for cholesterol and the small number of subjects taking supplements. These observations have implications for risk factor management in the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease in healthy individuals.

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