Monday, November 8, 2010

B Vitamins and Homocysteine

Homocysteine is an amino acid in the blood. Homocysteine is normally changed into other amino acids for use by the body.

High homocysteine levels in the blood can damage the lining of the arteries. In addition, high homocysteine levels may make blood clot more easily than it should. Epidemiological studies have shown that too much homocysteine in the blood (plasma) is related to a higher risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease

Plasma homocysteine levels are strongly influenced by diet, as well as by genetic factors.

B Vitamins Reduce Homocysteine Levels

Daily supplementation with folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, or a combination have been shown to reduce homocysteine levels to varying degrees in intervention studies.

....But Not Cardiovascular Events*

Unfortunately, several controlled studies have found that treatment with B-vitamins does not reduce the incidence of cardiovascular events despite substantial long-term reductions in blood homocysteine levels. *However, it must be noted that these studies were conducted on patients with preexisting vascular disease.

Your lifestyle is not only your best defense against heart disease and stroke, it's also your responsibility. By avoiding tobacco, becoming more active and choosing good nutrition you can reduce all of the modifiable risk factors for heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

A Heart-Healthy Lifestyle includes the ideas listed in the heart below :

  • Stop smoking
  • Choose good nutrition A healthy diet is one of the best weapons you have to fight cardiovascular disease. The food you eat (and the amount) can affect other controllable risk factors: cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and overweight. Choose nutrient-rich foods — which have vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients but are lower in calories — over nutrient-poor foods. A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole-grain and high-fiber foods, fish, lean protein and fat-free or low-fat dairy products is the key. And to maintain a healthy weight, coordinate your diet with your physical activity level so you're using up as many calories as you take in.
  • Reduce blood cholesterol
  • Lower high blood pressure
  • Be physically active every day
  • Aim for a healthy weight
  • Manage diabetes
  • Reduce stress
  • Limit alcohol

More details here.

Here's Something New!

B Vitamins Halt Brain Decay

Several epidemiological studies have linked homocysteine to dementia.

A new randomised controlled trial by Smith AD, Smith SM, de Jager CA, Whitbread P, Johnston C, et al. suggests high doses of B vitamins may halve the rate of brain shrinkage in older people experiencing some of the warning signs of Alzheimer's disease.

According to their study, published in the journal Public Library of Science One, people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) who took B vitamins for two years showed markedly deceleration of atrophy.

This study followed 168 people for two years and found that those taking B vitamin supplements had on average 30% less brain shrinkage and a lowering of homocysteine concentration in the blood by 31.7%.

Researchers concluded that an accelerated rate of brain atrophy in elderly people with mild cognitive impairment could be slowed via dietary supplementation with homocysteine-lowering B vitamins and that further trials are needed to test the methods on the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Journal Reference:

MartĂ­-Carvajal AJ, SolĂ  I, Lathyris D, Salanti G. Homocysteine lowering interventions for preventing cardiovascular events. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2009 Oct 7;(4):CD006612.

Smith AD, Smith SM, de Jager CA, Whitbread P, Johnston C, et al. (2010) Homocysteine-Lowering by B Vitamins Slows the Rate of Accelerated Brain Atrophy in Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Randomized Controlled Trial. PLoS ONE 5(9): e12244.

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