Homocysteine is an amino acid and a breakdown of protein that is found in the blood. The quantity of this amino acid in one’s blood can vary quite greatly. It is found in meat, seafood, dairy, eggs and some seeds and nuts.
A recent article in the Journals of Gerontology measured the effects of high homocysteine levels on the elderly. They evaluated the risk of frailty and the risk of dying as homocysteine levels rose in over 1000 subjects with homocysteine levels over 15 umol/L. Almost 700 subjects in this group were classified as frail, yielding a 49% increased risk of frailty for those with high homocysteine levels. High homocysteine was also associated with a 25% increased risk of dying during the 5 year follow-up compared to those with low homocysteine.
In addition to affecting frailty and longevity, homocysteine is considered an independent risk factor for heart health issues, making this test crucial to include in a health screen. In 1968, a Harvard researcher found that children with a genetic defect to break down homocysteine had severe issues with the buildup of plaque in the arteries.
What is interesting about this study is the level they deemed high. While many labs set the normal levels between 11-15 umol/L, the most recent research indicates that the best and most protective and healthy homocysteine levels are between 7-8 umol/L.
Some reports have indicated that lowering homocysteine levels does not deliver the predicted heart health benefits. However, most of these reports have been found to come from flawed studies and the fact that the homocysteine levels were not low enough!
A sufficient amount of B12, folate and B6 is required in the diet to break down homocysteine. In fact, a high level of homocysteine is an indicator that B12 levels may be low.
Getting the proper amount of these nutrients may be a challenge for those with weak digestion. B6 and folate come from an abundant amount of leafy greens and veggies, and B12 is mostly found in meat and dairy but requires a very strong digestive acid in the stomach to assimilate.
Note: To digest wheat and dairy you need a strong digestive acid. Inability to digest these well may indicate that your B12 and B levels are low.
1. J Gerontology. Series A. Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences. 2013 May;68(5):590-8
2. LEF. Homocysteine Reduction. http://www.lef.org/protocols/heart_circulatory/homocysteine_reduction_01.htm
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