Folic acid supplementation increases cutaneous vasodilator sensitivity to sympathetic nerve activity in older adults

Anna E. Stanhewicz, Jody L. Greaney, Lacy M. Alexander, W. Larry Kenney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


During heat stress, blunted increases in skin sympathetic nervous system activity (SSNA) and reductions in end-organ vascular responsiveness contribute to the age-related reduction in reflex cutaneous vasodilation. In older adults, folic acid supplementation improves the cutaneous vascular conductance (CVC) response to passive heating; however, the influence of folic acid supplementation on SSNA:CVC transduction is unknown. Fourteen older adults (66 ± 1 yr, 8 male/6 female) ingested folic acid (5 mg/day) or placebo for 6 wk in a randomized, double-blind, crossover design. In protocol 1, esophageal temperature (Tes) was increased by 1.0°C (water-perfused suit) while SSNA (peroneal microneurography) and red cell flux in the innervated dermatome (laser Doppler flowmetry; dorsum of the foot) were continuously measured. In protocol 2, two intradermal microdialysis fibers were placed in the skin of the lateral calf for graded infusions of acetylcholine (ACh; 10-10 to 10-1 M) with and without nitric oxide synthase (NOS) blockade (20 mM nitro-L-arginine methyl ester). Folic acid improved reflex vasodilation (46 ± 4% vs. 31 ± 3% CVCmax for placebo; P - 0.001) without affecting the increase in SSNA (±506 ± 104% vs. ±415 ± 73% for placebo; NS). Folic acid increased the slope of the SSNA-to-CVC relation (0.08 ± 0.02 vs. 0.05 ± 0.01 for placebo; P - 0.05) and extended the response range. Folic acid augmented AChinduced vasodilation (83 ± 3% vs. 66 ± 4% CVCmax for placebo; P < 0.002); however, there was no difference between treatments at the NOS-inhibited site (53 ± 4% vs. 52 ± 4% CVCmax for placebo; NS). These data demonstrate that folic acid supplementation enhances reflex vasodilation by increasing the sensitivity of skin arterioles to central sympathetic nerve outflow during hyperthermia in aged human subjects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R681-R688
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Folic acid supplementation increases cutaneous vasodilator sensitivity to sympathetic nerve activity in older adults'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this