Dangerous is Homocysteine?
Homocysteine is a normal byproduct of digesting meat, fish, dairy and other
animal protein sources. Like cholesterol, homocysteine performs
a necessary function in the body. However, nearly one-fourth
of all American adults and more than 50% of older adults have excessively
high blood levels of homocysteine.1,2
- Injures the inner lining of blood vessel walls.3
- Oxidizess LDL cholesterol, making it more likely
to stick to injured blood vessels.4
- Accelerates the growth of smooth muscle cells, narrowing blood vessels.
- Induces oxidative stress and impairs the ability
of blood vessels to expand and contract
- Increases blood clot formation, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.5
Elevated homocysteine has been detected in 30% with coronary vascular disease, 42% of patients with cerebrovascular disease and 28% with peripheral vascular disease.6,7 Homocysteine has been found to be up to 40 times more predictive than cholesterol in assessing cardiovascular disease risk.8
Healthy homocysteine levels can be
maintained with a combination of Folate,
B12 and B6
. The body-ready (conenzymated) form of these
vitamins may help overcome obstacles to metabolizing homocysteine.
Medical researchers believe homocysteine is a significant risk factor for heart attacks, stroke, Alzheimer's disease and osteoporosis. Medical studies also have proven that homocysteine...
- is broadly related to a higher risk of heart, brain and all blood vessel diseases;9
- is a strong risk factor for dementia and Alzheimer's disease;10
- narrows blood vessels after angioplasty;11
- is a risk factor for depression and cancer;12
- can lead to neural tube defects in a fetus;13
- is found in diabetic neuropathy;3
- is elevated in cirrhosis of the liver;14
- is found in kidney patients undergoing dialysis;15
- and, is predictive of cervical cancer.16
The risk for coronary disease rises as homocysteine levels increase,
regardless of age and sex.17 For example, each 1 mmol/l
(unit measure) rise in homocysteine concentration in the blood corresponds
to an increase of about 10% in cardiovascular risk.
"The Physician's Health Study" following 14,915 doctors revealed that participants with high homocysteine levels had 3.4 times greater risk of heart attack than doctors with lower homocysteine levels. That's 340%!18
Now some good news: most people can eliminate excessive levels
of homocysteine from their blood.
What is a safe level of homocysteine?
1 Napplo F.
Impairment of endothelial functions by acute hyperhomocysteinemia
and reversal by antioxidant vitamins. JAMA 1999:281:2113-8.
K. et al., Hyperhomocysteinemia and Low Pyridoxal Phosphate - Common
and Independent Reversible Risk Factors for Coronary Artery Disease.
3 Schnyder, G., Roffi, M., Pin, R.,
et al., "Decreased Rate of Coronary Restenosis After Lowering of Plasma
Homocysteine Levels," The New England Journal of Medicine," 345(22),
2001, pages 1593-1600.
4 Selhub, J. "Folate, Vitamin B12 and Vitamin
B6 and One Carbon Metabolism," J Nutr Health
Aging, 6(1), 2002, pages 39-42.
5 McCully, K., McCully, M., "The
Heart Revolution: The Extraordinary Discovery That Finally Laid the
Cholesterol Myth to Rest and Put Good Food Back on the Table," 2000,
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
6 Boers G. Hyperhomocysteinaemia:
a newly recognized risk factor for vascular disease. Neth J Med 1994;45:34-41.
7 N Engl J Med. 1991 Apr 25;324(17):1149-55.
8Challem, Jack and Dolby, Victoria, Homocysteine: The New Cholesterol, Keats Publishing, New Canaan, CT, 1996.
9 Weinstein, S.J., Ziegler, R.J., Selhub, J., et al., "Elevated Serum
Homocysteine Levels and Increased Risk of Invasive Cervical Cancer
in US Women," Cancer Causes Control, 12(4), 2001, pages 317-324.
10 Mainou, C., Garcia, G., Vilaseca, B., et al., "[Hyperhomocystinemia
and 677C T Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase Polymorphism as a Cardiovascular
Risk Factor in Childhood]," Anales españoles de pediatría, 56(5),
2002, pages 402-408.
11 Desouza, C., Keebler, M., McNamara, D., et
al., "Drugs Affecting Homocysteine Metabolism: Impact on Cardiovascular
Risk," Drugs, 62(4), 2002, pages 605-616.
12 Larkin, M., "Kilmer
McCully: Pioneer of the Homocysteine Theory," Lancet, 352, 1998, page
13 Ducloux, D., Aboubakr, A., Motte, G., et al., "Hyperhomocysteinaemia
Therapy in Haemodialysis patients: Folinic Versus Folic Acid in Combination
with Vitamin B6 and B12," Nephrology, Dialysis, Transplant, 17(5),
2002, pages 865-870.
14 Ambrosch, A., Dierkes, J., Lobmann, R., et
al., "Relation Between Homocysteinaemia and Diabetic Neuropathy in
Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus," Diabetic Medicine, 18(3),
2001, pages 185-192.
15 Seshadri, S., Beiser, A., Selhub, J., et
al., "Plasma Homocysteine as a Risk Factor for Dementia and Alzheimer's
Disease," The New England Journal of Medicine, 346(7), 2002, pages
16 Bosy-Westphal, A., Peterson, S., Hinrichsen, H., et al.,
"Increased Plasma Homocysteine in Liver Cirrhosis," Hepatology Research,
20(1), 2002, pages 28-38.
17 Robinson, K. et al., Hyperhomocysteinemia
and Low Pyridoxal Phosphate - Common and Independent Reversible Risk
Factors for Coronary Artery Disease. Circulation. 1995;92:2825-2830.
18 Meir J. Stampfer, et. al., Journal of The American Medical Association,