You probably already know that high levels of C-reactive protein and homocysteine are known risk factors for vascular and degenerative disease. And you probably can name several supplements that will lower them. For instance, folic acid and vitamin B12 are crucial to lower homocysteine. But many people can have plenty of B12 and folate and still have too much homocysteine.

So how can you lower your C-reactive protein and homocysteine levels when the traditional supplements don't do the job?

Well, a new study shows that you can lower your levels of both without taking anything.

According to the study, all you have to do is get more choline and betaine in your diet.

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The study included 1,514 men and 1,528 women, aged 18 - 89. They had no cardiovascular disease. The authors calculated dietary intakes of choline and betaine from a validated food-frequency questionnaire. The best part of the study was actual blood samples. The scientists measured levels of serious inflammatory chemicals in the participants' blood. These included C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha).

The researchers compared participants with the highest average intake of choline (above 310 mg daily) to the lowest (less than 250 mg daily). Those in the highest group had CRP levels that were 22% lower; interleukin-6 concentrations that were 26% lower; and TNF-alpha levels that were 6% lower.

The highest betaine-consuming group (more than 360 mg per day) had CRP levels 19% lower than those with the lowest average intake (less than 260 mg per day). TNF-alpha and homocysteine levels were 12% and 10% lower, respectively, in individuals with the highest betaine intakes.

Why do choline and betaine work so well? They are both in the B-vitamin family. Like their B-vitamin cousins folic acid and vitamin B12, they are intimately involved in methylation - the biochemical process that protects your DNA. But choline and betaine provide an alternative means of methylation. Because they work in a different way, they might work for you when the traditional supplements don't.

Action to take: If you have high markers of inflammation, use diet first. It adds no cost to your daily budget. All you have to do is swap foods poor in these nutrients for those that are rich. Here are some great sources of choline:

* Beef liver (pan-fried - 100 grams or about 3.5 oz) - 418 mg choline
* Whole large egg - 112 mg choline
* Ground beef (80% lean/20% fat - 3.5 oz patty) - 81 mg choline
* Cauliflower (3/4 cup cooked - 1" pieces) - 62 mg choline
* Navy beans (1/2 cup cooked) - 48 mg choline
* Tofu (100 grams or about 3.5 oz) - 28 mg choline
* Sliced almonds (1/2 cup) - 26 mg choline
* Peanut butter (2 T) - 20 mg choline

And betaine is plentiful in beets, broccoli, and spinach. Remember to always look to diet first to remedy your problems. If you can't get enough of these nutrients in your diet, you can get them from a B-complex vitamin found in any health food store.

Ref: Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Feb;87(2).
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