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Homocysteine – The “guilty” amino acid

 

Homocysteine is an amino acid that contains sulfur and it is produced from the basic amino acid methionine. It is found in many foods and is synthesized by our body. Under normal conditions, it is rapidly converted to other amino acids, which helps maintain low levels in our body.

 

Why are elevated Homocysteine levels dangerous?

Some people have high concentrations of Homocysteine in their body, which may be due to genetic abnormalities or the adoption of a certain diet (vegetarians). Methionine metabolism is determined by the function of three vitamins. These are folic acid, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and vitamin B12 (cobalamin). Lack of these vitamins makes it impossible to adequately metabolize methionine and reasonably leads to an increase in Homocysteine levels in the human blood.

Furthermore, some of the medicinal products currently used in clinical practice in order to reduce lipids, as well as drugs which are used to treat Parkinson’s disease have been implicated in increasing Homocysteine levels.

 

Who mainly suffers from Hyperhomocysteinemia

Elevated Homocysteine levels lead to a condition which is known as hyperhomocysteinemia. Age, smoking, excessive coffee consumption, hypertension, dyslipidemia and high levels of creatinine in the human body are factors that are associated with elevated Homocysteine levels.

Vegetarians are at higher risk of developing hyperhomocysteinemia, as the levels of vitamin B12 in the blood plasma are usually low, resulting in inhibition of adequate methionine metabolism and consequently an increase in Homocysteine.

The kidneys are the main route of “cleansing” of Homocysteine from the blood plasma and when they malfunction, levels of homocysteine increase. This explains why people with chronic kidney disease have high levels of Homocysteine in their blood.

In fact, people with certain diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, have been shown to have elevated levels of homocysteine. Taking medicines to treat these diseases leads to this condition, as these medicines inhibit the metabolism of leafy algae and Vitamins B6 and B12.

 

Homocysteine As A Risk Factor For Cardiovascular And Brain Diseases

In recent years, it has been claimed that increased Homocysteine is responsible for the development of coronary heart disease. Scientific studies show a clear association between Homocysteine and the effects of peripheral vascular disease.

Elevated Homocysteine, since the 1990s, has been shown to increase the risk of atherosclerosis. It also contributes to hypercoagulability of the blood. Atherosclerosis is the most common cause of myocardial infarction, heart failure, stroke and aneurysm.

Insufficient metabolism of Homocysteine is quite harmful to the human body, because it also leads to an increase in oxidative stress. The proteins, which contain amounts of Homocysteine, acquire pro-inflammatory and prothrombotic properties, which explains the association of hyperhomocysteinemia with increased pathogenicity of various diseases.

 

What is the role of Nutrition

It has been proven, based on scientific findings, that folic acid and Vitamins B6 and B12 have a beneficial effect on the human body, as they help reduce Homocysteine levels. Thus, a diet rich in these vitamins and minerals, avoiding processed carbohydrates, quitting smoking, excessive coffee, alcohol consumption and incorporating daily exercise can help maintain Homocysteine at normal levels. In addition, the treatment of hyperhomocysteinemia with folic acid and B-complex vitamins is an inhibitory factor in the development of atherosclerosis and prevents the occurrence of strokes.

 

Dr. Nikoleta Koini, M.D.

Doctor of Functional, Preventive, Anti-ageing and Restorative Medicine.
Diplomate and Board Certified in Anti-aging, Preventive, Functional and Regenerative Medicine from A4M (American Academy in Antiaging Medicine).

 

References:
  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27775595
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30427275
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29979619
  4. https://www.vita.gr/2009/01/16/ygeia/exw-ypshlh-o-okysteinh-prepei-na-anhsyxw/
  5. http://www.mednet.gr/archives/2001-5/pdf/526.pdf
  6. https://www.capital.gr/health/3385858/i-omokusteini-kai-o-agnostos-rolos-tis-stin-ugeia mas
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