What is Homocysteine?
Homocysteine is an amino acid produced in the body during the metabolism of a common dietary amino acid called methionine. Vitamins B6, B12, riboflavin and folate help breakdown homocysteine into other beneficial amino acids.
Deficiencies in these vitamins may lead to elevated homocysteine levels a condition known as hyperhomocysteinemia. When homocysteine levels are elevated, they are associated with the development of atherosclerosis, stroke, cognitive disorders, and hearing loss. Elevated homocysteine is a risk factor for vascular calcification progression suggested in a study published in 2020 in the Journal of the American Heart Association. It effects the calcification of arteries and heart valves and is considered an irreversible state. Homocysteine may also increase blood clotting, reduce the synthesis of HDL, (good cholesterol), and promote the oxidation of LDL which contributes to atherosclerosis.
When the MRI scans of 36 healthy volunteers between the ages of 59 and 85 were done, it was revealed that those with higher homocysteine levels had a greater loss of white matter, defined as brain tissue for nerve signal conduction.
There is some evidence that elevated homocysteine may indicated markers of Alzheimer’s disease progression in brain tissue including neurofibrillary tangles, dysfunction, dysfunctional protein accumulation, and brain shrinkage.
Studies have also shown that even modest elevations of homocysteine that occur within the normal range has been associated with a substantial increase in risk of dementia in the elderly.
It is recommended that if you have a history of heart disease or dementia, you should talk to your physician as there are simple blood tests to determine your homocysteine status. It is also recommended that if your levels go above the recommended levels, you have a choice to supplement your diet with a common multivitamin that contains vitamin B6, folate, B12, and riboflavin – they all work to lower homocysteine concentrations in the body. However, it is not necessary to take individual vitamins that are more costly and frankly a ‘lot of pills to take”. Vitamins are best coming from foods and check your health status to make sure there are no underlying conditions that might be caused by even a moderate vitamin deficit. Check your status with your primary care physician.
THE VITAMINS AT A GLANCE
|Vitamin||Function||Overdose Consequence||Food Sources||Comments|
|B6 (pyridoxine)||Protein synthesis, nervous system||Numbness, weakness, loss of balance||Meats, cereal, bananas, potatoes sweet peppers||Overdose symptoms can mask multiple sclerosis|
|Folate (folacin)||Protein synthesis, red blood formation||Can mask B12 deficiency (pernicious anemia)||Fortified grains, bread, pasta, dark green vegetables, dried beans||Prevention of neural tube defects in early pregnancy of embryo|
|B12||Nerve tissues, red blood cell formation||None known||Fish, seafood, milk, cheese, meat||Found in animal products and microorganisms only|
|Riboflavin||Energy release from carbs||None known||Milk, yogurt, cheese, grains, eggs, liver, fish, beef||Destroyed by light exposure|