Homocysteine is a type of protein, produced by the body and found in the blood, which ideally should be present in very low quantities. However, if you are not properly nourished, homocysteine can accumulate in the blood, increasing the risk for over fifty diseases, including heart attacks, strokes, certain cancers, diabetes, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease. The good news is that this new and important risk can be reversed in weeks. (Holford p137)
Homocysteine is produced from the amino acid methionine, which is in normal dietary protein. Your body naturally turns homocysteine into one of two beneficial substances; glutathione (the body’s most important antioxidant) and SAMe ( a very important “intelligent”nutrient for both brain and body).(Holford p 137)
The problem is if you don’t have sufficient B vitamins in your diet, the enzymes that turn homocysteine into these beneficial substances don’t work well enough.(Holford p 137)
Increasing dietary and supplemental levels of vitamins B6 and B12 and folic acid can normalize homocysteine levels. B vitamins are also lacking in the SAD (Standard American Diet). It’s estimated that taking a multivitamin with B-complex vitamins could prevent 10 percent of dealth from heart disease. (Lipski pp 4-5)
“What we are about to unfold is a story that has been years in the making, and until now, has missed the limelight of most important medical discoveries. An elevated blood homocysteine level is a powerful risk factor for coronary heart disease (CHD), and the majority of physicians in the United States do not know this. For this reason, there has been no attempt to control it . . . until now. Prominent researchers now believe that plasma homocysteine elevations may be just as important, if not more so, than cholesterol elevations in the genesis of atherosclerosis and CHD” . This is an excerpt from a rough draft of “Homocysteine Can Kill You” by Glenn Tisman, M.D. and Melanie Tisman. It’s a controversial report posted online in July of 1997. They go on to state that “your chances of learning about homocysteine from your physician are remote. Not because physicians are consciously withholding this information, but because it is likely your physician was never taught about homocysteine's unique relationship to atherosclerosis.”
The ability of the body to maintain chemical balance hinges upon its ability to add or subtract molecules called methyl groups. This is how it’s done.
First you receive methionine, protein, from your diet.That is converted into homocysteine-this goes one or two ways depending on which B-vitamin you consume.
• If you consume folate, B12, B2, and zinc, homocysteine converts to methyltransferase.
• Methyltransferase converts to MTHFR with TMG and B12 which then become SAMe.
• If you consume B6, B2, and zinc homocysteine becomes cystathionine lyase.
• Cystathionine lyase becomes cystathionine beta-synthase with the same nutrients. Thus resulting in glutathione.
Dietary recommendations for lowering your homocysteine levels are as follows
1. Eat less fatty meat and more fish and vegetable protein
• No more then four servings of lean meat a week. Eat fish, but not fried, at least three times a week. You may also have soy-based food, such as tofu, tempeh, or soy sausages; or beans, such as kidney beans, chickpea hummus, or baked beans, at least 5 times a week.
2. Eat your greens
• Have at least five servings of fruit or vegetables a day
3. Have a clove of garlic a day
• Either eat a clove of garlic a day or take a garlic supplement every day. You can take garlic oil capsules or powdered garlic supplements
4. Don’t add salt to your food
5. Cut back on tea and coffee
• Don’t drink more the one cup of caffeinated or noncaffeinated coffee, or two cups of tea, in a day. Instead, choose from a variety of herbal teas and grain coffees available.
6. Limit your alcohol
7. Reduce your stress
8. Stop smoking
9. Correct estrogen deficiency
• If you are postmenpausal, or have menopausal symptoms or other menstrual irregularities, check your estrogen and progesterone levels with a hormone saliva test. You can correct deficiencies with a natural progesterone in the form of transdermal skin cream.
10. Supplement a high-strength multivitamin every day
• Take one providing at least 25 mg of the main B vitamins, 200 mcg of folate, and 10mcg each of vitamins B12 and B6, plus A, D, and E, and the minerals magnesium, selenium, chromium, and zinc. Also supplement 1 g of vitamin C for general health.
11. Take Homocysteine Supplements
• The most powerful and quickest way to restore a normal H score, below 6 units, is to supplement specific homocysteine-lowering nutrients. These include vitamins B2, B6, B12, folic acid, trimethyl glycine (TMG), and zinc.
Be sure to get enough of these nutrients on a daily basis. If you are at risk or know you have high homocysteine levels, you need to take mega doses of these essential nutrients. Very high risk patients, above 15 units, need to take 2000 mcg of folic acid, 1500 mcg of B12, 100 mg of B6, 50 mg of B2, 20 mg of zinc, and 3-6 g of TMG. This is a very serious condition and if left unattended it can result in cancers, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and even death.
One way you can ensure that you’re getting enough of the proper nutrients and not too many anti-nutrients is to write it all down on a chart. On a spreadsheet list all the nutrients you need to consume in a day in the left hand column. On the bottom of the chart should be a list of the anti-nutrients you shouldn’t consume daily as a reminder not to eat these foods. Everyday, until you have completely changed your eating habits and committed them to memory, check off the foods and supplements you have taken in. All boxes should be marked at the end of the day. This will guarantee maximum health benefits.
Another approach is to get a pill box and place a weeks worth of supplements in every box. This is a simple, and portable, reminder of the supplements you need to take. You can also laminate and index card of the important foods you should be consuming so you can take that with you everywhere. Use it when ordering at a restaurant or grocery shopping.
Resources ofr the information obtained for this include:
The New Optimum Nutrition Bible, by Patrick Holford
Digestive Wellness, by Elizabeth Lipski, Ph.D, CCN
I highly recommend reading all three of these sources for a more in depth education on the subject matter.