What is Homocysteine?
Homocysteine is an
acid. This means that we cannot build protein from it. It is a substance
in the blood, created in the liver that can tested by a blood test. It is not
obtained in the diet - it is synthesized from methionine by removal of a
methyl group. Homocysteine is the byproduct of normal amino
acids methionine and cysteine.
Too much homocysteine causes damage to the
lining of arteries, called the endothelium. The endothelium is a thin layer of
cells that line the arteries, veins and capillaries. They carry out very important functions,
including releasing nitric oxide (NO) that allows for the arteries to relax,
dilate and have increased blood flow to organs and muscles. With a
constriction, there is a reduced amount of glucose and oxygen to the tissues of
the body which are needed for cellular metabolism. When too much homocysteine oxidizes the lining
of the endothelium, it damages the cells and exposes the inner wall of the
artery. This can cause inflammation and further
damage because oxidized LDL cholesterol is stuck under this damaged
endothelium. With inflammation, arterial
plaque can then develop.
There is no pharmaceutical drug
for homocysteine, only natural, dietary treatments. Therefore not all
doctors will even test for it! Most laboratories report normal homocysteine
levels in the blood between 4 and 15. In lab testing, any measurement above 15 is considered high.
functional medicine, homocysteine healthy ranges are 4 - 8 nmol/ml.
The optimum homocysteine level is
less than 7.0,
and ideally less than 6.5 but above 4.0.
For every 3 points above 6.5 there is an estimated
33 to 35% increase risk of heart disease.
is also a concern. Anything below 4.0 is a sign of malnutrition.
MTHFR 677 mutation leads to higher levels of
homocysteine. It can be converted to usable substances two different ways:
Homocysteine increases ADMA and reduces nitrous oxide
High homocysteine makes connective tissue and elastic
fibers in the body weaker (including in Marfan Syndrome).
High homocysteine inhibits methylation reactions in the
body and the body starts to accumulate saturated fats in the cells resulting
in poor cell membrane health.
This forces the cholesterol into your bloodstream and cause ER (endoplasmic
High homocysteine plays a key role in Type 2 diabetes.
Choline has been shown
to lower homocysteine levels.
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
has been shown to lower homocysteine levels by 22 to 40% in a subset of
the population that has a certain genetic variant of an enzyme involved
in folic acid metabolism, the 677C polymorphism for the MTHFR gene).
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