Homocysteine – Your Most Vital Statistic

According to Patrick Holford, homocysteine is “the single greatest predictor of health and disease as well as the biggest breakthrough in preventative medicine”. Some medical doctors believe in checking homocysteine levels, others don’t even bother. However if you open any medical journal today, you will find something about homocysteine.

Homocysteine reflects the health of your genes, how well you are holding back the clock, and your risk of premature death from all common causes. In fact, high levels of homocysteinepredicts your risk of more than 100 diseases and medical conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke risk, cancer and depression. Homocysteineis more important than your weight, your blood pressure or your cholesterol – it is a better predictor of heart disease than cholesterol.

WHAT IS HOMOCYSTEINE?

Homocysteine is an amino acid (building block of protein) that your body produces naturally in your blood.  Our bodies do have the ability to rapidly convert high levels of homocysteine into harmless substances that can be utilized by the body. However certain factors may reduce our ability to maintain normal homocysteine levels in our blood.

THE FACTORS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO INCREASED HOMOCYSTEINE LEVELS?

·    Inadequate B vitamin intake. Homocysteine is kept in check by a natural process called methylation. Methylation plays a critical role in protecting us from certain diseases. The reason why homocysteine accumulates in the body, is because enzymes, the chemical catalysts in the biochemical transformation process, aren’t working properly. This is because enzymes do not work alone. They have helpers called co-factors, primarily the vitamins folic acid (folate), pyridoxine (Vit B6), cobalamin (Vitamin B12), riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Niacin (Vitamin B3), and the mineral zinc. Among them is a very special nutrient called Trimethylglyceine also known as choline. Elevated homocysteine is an excellent biomarker of glutathione, SAMe, L-Cysteine and methyl donor deficiencies. Therefore when homocysteine is high, one or more of these critical anti-aging health promoting natural body chemicals is deficient.

·         Aging process – 30% of elderly persons (both male and female) have elevatedhomocysteine

·         Strict vegetarians have higher homocysteine levels than meat eaters

·          Excess exercise depletes the body of B vitamins and other nutrients

·         On the other hand low physical activity is also a factor that contributes to increasedhomocysteine levels

·          Going on a weight loss diet increases rather than decreases your homocysteinelevels. This doesn’t mean you should not reduce your excess weight, but if you do go on a diet, you should take a good Vitamin B complex formulation together with Trimethylglyceine

·         Excessive coffee or tea intake

·         Alcohol

·         Hypothyroidism (Under Active Thyroid)

·         Smoking – smokers have high homocysteine levels  which plummet on stopping, but barely change when only cutting back

·         Some drugs methotrexate, corticosteroids (cortisone), fibrates (triglycerides), l-Dopa for Parkinsons, Cyclosporin for immune suppression, certain Epileptic drugs, certain diabetic controlling tablets and certain cholesterol reducing drugs

·         Genetic traits may predispose you to high homocysteine levels. Has your first-degree family (mother, father, brothers or sisters) suffered from any of the following:

Heart disease, especially before 50 years of age; strokes; Alzheimer’s disease; abnormal blood clots; cancer and severe depression (especially in women)

If your answer is yes, there is an increased risk that you may have inherited the same enzyme deficiencies that make you more prone to these diseases and to high homocysteine levels. Your need then for nutrients may be massively higher than the average person.

One in 10 people inherit a disposition to having high levels of homocysteine because the enzyme MTHFR (5-formyltetrahydrofolate) that clears homocysteine from the system doesn’t work so well.

The MTHFR enzyme depends on an intake of the following vitamins: B6, B12, folic acid and another nutrient TMG (trimethyl glycine). Of lesser importance are zinc, magnesium and Vit B2.

MTHFR stands for Methylene-Tetra-Hydro-Folate-Reductase. It is an enzyme, which we all have in the cells of our body. It is needed to metabolize and get rid of homocysteine.

WHAT DOES A HIGH HOMOCYSTEINE LEVEL DO TO OUR BODY?

High homocysteine levels have been shown to:

·         Irritate blood vessels, leading to blockages in the arteries (atherosclerosis)

·         Make blood clot more easily than it should, increasing the risk of stroke or blood flow problems

·         Cause  cholesterol to change to a form that is damaging to arteries

·         Weaken the immune system

·         Increase pain and inflammation

·         Increase risk of brain ageing and Alzheimer’s disease

·         Cause hormonal problems

·         Reduces the body’s effectiveness in producing certain body chemicals that would normally help reduce our risk of developing a variety of conditions and diseases

·         Increase vulnerability to cancer and detoxification problems

DISEASES ASSOCIATED WITH HIGH HOMOCYSTEINE LEVELS?

·         Alzheimer’s disease

·         Auto-immune disease – multiple sclerosis, Lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis

·         Thyroid disorders

·         High Cholesterol

·         Heart conditions

·         Strokes

·         Arthritis

·         Fibromyalgia

·         Diabetes

·         Polycystic ovaries

·         Insulin resistance

·         Infertility

·         Epilepsy

·         Depression/schizophrenia

·         Autism

·         Mental retardation

·         ADD  and ADHD

If you can prevent all of these diseases you are likely to add between 10 and 20 years to your lifespan. And probably the best single measure that you are on the right track is your homocysteine level. High homocysteine, especially in the early stages is often symptom free. Therefore it is a mistake to assume your own levels of homocysteine must be okay simply because you do not have symptoms of a serious illness.

HOW DOES ONE TEST ONE’S HOMOCYSTEINE LEVELS?

Homocysteine is a blood test that must be done on an empty stomach at a recognized laboratory who knows that it has to be put on ice. Do not eat or drink anything after 10pm the night before, and do not eat or drink anything before you go for the blood test in the morning – no supplements and no medication (discuss this with your doctor). The ideal level is below 6. A score of 15 means 4 times the risk of a heart attack.

Please note that different laboratories may use higher “safe” Homocysteine cut off values. However, as more and more evidence is published in medical journals, the “healthy” Homocysteine levels are moving lower and lower. A score below 6 units means no risk, while a score above 15 units is bad news. You must discuss your “H” score and other risk factors with your health care practitioner.

I can just tell you that if your score is higher than 6 you will then have to go on a homocysteine lowering supplement – right combination of the 4 B vitamins  (B2, B6, B12 and folic acid) as well as zinc and trimethyglycine (TMG). This combination will without doubt lower homocysteine in a matter of weeks.

Recent research published in the Journal of American Medical association found that for every 5 point increase in homocysteine, there is an associated:

·         49% increase in all cause mortality

·         50% increase in cardiovascular mortality

·         26% increase in cancer mortality and

·         104% increase in non-cancer, non-cardiovascular mortality

I believe anyone with cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure, or a family history of heart disease, even with no symptoms, should routinely test for homocysteine levels every 3 months.   

SO HOW CAN WE KEEP HOMOCYSTEINE LEVELS IN CHECK?

·         Eat less fatty meat – more fish and vegetable protein

·         Eat more fruit and vegetables, especially dark green leafy vegetables and beans as they  are high in folic acid

·         Use good quality health salt – Himalayan salt

·         Cut back on tea and coffee

·         Limit your alcohol intake

·         Reduce your stress

·         Stop smoking – do not just cut down

·         Correct hormonal deficiencies using natural supplements

·         Supplement a high strength multivitamin and/or a Homocysteine lowering formula every day 

THE BENEFITS OF OPTIMIZING HOMOCYSTEINE LEVELS 

·         Improved mood, memory and mental clarity

·         Improved liver function

·         Better condition of hair, skin and nails

·         Increased energy

·         Better sleep

·         Reduction in arthritic pain

·         Raised glutathione levels (glutathione slows the aging process and aids in detoxification)

·         Dramatic reduction in risk of heart disease, strokes, cancer and Alzheimer’s

·         Fewer infections

·         Better weight control

Knowing your homocysteine score and taking the appropriate steps to lower it and keep it low, can add quality years to your life. “A good and healthy lifestyle is reflected by a low homocysteine level. But if your homocysteine level is elevated, there is every reason to have a critical look at your health.”

By Professor Celene Bernstein

www.healthseekers.co.za

 

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