What is homocysteine?
Homocysteine is an amino acid similar to cysteine with only one carbon, hence its name. It is broken down into a benign molecule at normal levels in healthy individuals. Yet, when it is not properly metabolized, it builds up in the body and acts like a toxin.
Homocysteine is an atherogenic amino acid. This means that it plays a major role in the development of atherosclerotic plaques and narrowing of the arteries.
Elevated levels of homocysteine in the blood have been implicated as key factors in the development of atherosclerosis and heart disease in the general population.
High homocysteine levels in the blood (above 15 µmol/L) is known as hyperhomocysteinemia. Hyperhomocysteinemia is a risk factor for coronary heart disease, blockages, blood clots and strokes.
What are the causes of high homocysteine?
- Insufficient intake of the B vitamins (B6, B12, folate) leads to elevated blood levels of homocysteine. The Standard American Diet, rich in processed foods, provides insufficient amounts of nutrients, including B vitamins.
- Insufficient absorption of vitamin B12 in certain populations, such as elderly individuals, who have low stomach acid and can’t form intrinsic factor (needed for b12 absorption).
- Increased coffee intake
- High-methionine diet (Meat, eggs or dairy)
- Increased alcohol consumption
- Increased age
- Gene variant that impairs the body’s ability to activate folic acid to the active form (5-methyltetrahydrofolate or 5-MTHF)
- Up to half of the American population has the genetic variation (single nucleotide polymorphism or SNP) that is linked to high homocysteine levels
- Chronic renal failure
- Medications such as Metformin
Where does homocysteine come from?
The only source of homocysteine is from the metabolism (or breakdown) of the essential amino acid methionine in the liver. You can’t get homocysteine directly from the diet, it is from methionine. Methionine is an essential amino acid typically found in protein products of animal foods like meat, seafood, dairy and egg products. Methionine is found in much higher concentrations in animal foods than in plant foods.
What are the risks associated with high homocysteine levels?
- Increased risk for blood clots
- Increased risk for cardiovascular disease
- Increased risk of stroke
- Increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease
- Increased risk for macular degeneration
- Increased chances for migraines
- Increased incidence of hearing loss
- Increased risk for depression
- Increased chances for developing osteoporosis
- Increased odds of miscarriage
How can I lower my elevated homocysteine levels?
- Supplement with Homocysteine Support– Take 1-2 caps per day or as directed by your physician
- Activated B vitamins (folate, B6 and B12) significantly lower homocysteine levels (and are the best way to clinically do so)
- Betaine (TMG) lower circulating homocysteine concentrations
- Also, contains vitamin B2 and NAC, both proven nutrients to assist in reducing homocysteine
- Supplement with N-acetyl L-cysteine (NAC) found in our GlutaBoost– Take 1-2 caps per day or as directed by your physician
- NAC lowers homocysteine levels and encourages the formation of cysteine and glutathione (the master antioxidant of the cells)
- Supplement with Fish oil rich in omega 3 fatty acids found in our Omega DHA– Take 1 capsules per day or as directed by your physician
- Omega 3 fatty acids have shown promise to also reduce homocysteine levels.
- Exercise has been shown to reduce homocysteine levels
- Decrease alcohol and caffeine intake as high intakes are related to increased homocysteine levels
- Stop smoking as smoking is a risk factor for elevated homocysteine levels
- Lose weight as obesity is associated with an increased risk of high homocysteine
- Lower stress as stress can increase homocysteine in the blood
- Eat an organic, Paleo diet rich in micronutrients
Other things to know:
- The majority of conventional doctors still do not test for homocysteine levels despite evidence that it is an independent risk factor for heart attacks, stroke and heart disease. Many mainstream doctors still accept the conventional lipid theory of heart attack and stroke risk (that high LDL and total cholesterol will predict risk). Interestingly, more than half of all heart attack patients have “normal” cholesterol. Be sure to ask your doctor to check your homocysteine levels or, better yet, find a natural cardiologist who will test it regularly!
- Polyvitamin therapy (or the use of multiple vitamins) is the best way to significantly reduce elevated homocysteine levels and keep them under control. This is why we developed our exclusive Homocysteine Support. We have seen great results for our patients on it. Again, it has vitamin B2, B6, B12, folate, TMG and NAC, which are all key components to lowering homocysteine in the blood.