January 5, 2011

Double your risk of Alzheimer's and heart attack with this "natural" amino acid

Many doctors have been slow to watch your homocysteine levels. And, a few years ago, there were conflicting reports on its value. I've always liked the test, and a new study supports its use. In fact, this study shows how you can significantly reduce your risk for heart attacks.

In this study, researchers followed 2,009 participants for nearly 12 years. That's enough time to see if there's a problem. (Too bad Pharma is not required to study its chemical poisons this long.) Subjects with homocysteine levels over 9.47 micromol/L had a 2.3-fold risk increase in heart attacks and other cardiovascular events. Those with levels over 11.84 mmol/L had a 2.4-fold increase risk for death.

A second study gave more bad news. It found high homocysteine levels contribute to arterial stiffness and vascular inflammation. It can contribute to smaller LDL particle size. And it also causes higher levels of oxidized LDL and cytokines in men. These are all significant risk factors for heart disease.

Homocysteine is an amino acid that's an integral part of your metabolism. Like cholesterol, your body needs it. However, in high levels, it can cause vascular damage. But your heart isn't the only thing at risk. A study in 2002 found that high levels of homocysteine (>14) doubled the risk of Alzheimer's.

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So what causes high homocysteine levels? The main cause is insufficient vitamin B12. And low vitamin B12 levels can cause circulatory and neurological dysfunction.

For this reason, I think everyone should have a homocysteine test to get a baseline level. My patient cut-off point is greater than 9.9. My own was about 9.8 until I took an injection of vitamin B12 and it promptly fell below 9.

The key nutrients for proper homocysteine metabolism are vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid, with B12 being the most important. Even heavy meat eaters can be deficient in vitamin B12. If your homocysteine level is high, please get a methylmalonic acid test (MMA). It is the best test for vitamin B12 activity. If it is high, you need more B12. A B12 injection is the best way to increase your levels. Please consult your integrative physician for this.

Supplemental folic acid can reduce homocysteine levels and its associated vascular mortality. I recommend you take at least 400 mcg per day. If you're taking the multivitamin/mineral Healthy Resolve, you're getting twice that amount every day.

Ref: Circ J, 2009; 73(8): 1423-30; NEJM 2002;346:476-83.; Am J Cardiol, 2009; 104(6): 745-9; "Nutrition Metabolism and cardiovascular Diseases" online October 23, 2009.

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