Hypertension is the leading risk factor contributing to mortality worldwide, primarily from cardiovascular disease (CVD), while effective treatment of hypertension is proven to reduce CVD events. Along with the well recognized nutrition and lifestyle determinants, genetic factors are implicated in the development and progression of hypertension. In recent years genome-wide association studies have identified a region near the gene encoding the folate-metabolizing enzyme methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) among eight loci associated with blood pressure. Epidemiological studies, which provide a separate line of evidence to link this gene with blood pressure, show that the 677C→T polymorphism in MTHFR increases the risk of hypertension by 24–87% and CVD by up to 40%, albeit with a large geographical variation in the extent of excess disease risk suggestive of a gene–environment interaction. Emerging evidence indicates that the relevant environmental factor may be riboflavin, the MTHFR co-factor, via a novel and genotype-specific effect on blood pressure. Randomized trials conducted in hypertensive patients (with and without overt CVD) pre-screened for this polymorphism show that targeted riboflavin supplementation in homozygous individuals (MTHFR 677TT genotype) lowers systolic blood pressure by 6 to 13 mmHg, independently of the effect of antihypertensive drugs. The latest evidence, that the blood pressure phenotype associated with this polymorphism is modifiable by riboflavin, has important clinical and public health implications. For hypertensive patients, riboflavin supplementation can offer a non-drug treatment to effectively lower blood pressure in those identified with the MTHFR 677TT genotype. For sub-populations worldwide with this genotype, better riboflavin status may prevent or delay the development of high blood pressure. Thus riboflavin, targeted at those homozygous for a common polymorphism in MTHFR, may offer a personalized treatment or preventative strategy for hypertension. Further investigations of this novel gene–nutrient interaction in relation to blood pressure, hypertension and hypertension in pregnancy are required.
- Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) genotype
- Blood pressure
- Personalized medicine