March 3, 2008

You "Ask", I Answer: Homocysteine/Cholesterol

According to a book I read by Dr. Ray Strand, cholesterol is not the only factor causing cardiovascular diseases.

There is something called homocysteine where high levels of it also may cause some damages.

-- Eugene Goh
Via the blog

I'm glad you brought this up.

On the one hand, it is an important factor many people are unaware of, but I have also seen unnecessary panic over it.

High homocysteine levels are indeed one factor that can increase a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease, but it is not as applicable to – or prevalent in -- the general population as high intakes of saturated and trans fat.

Let’s backtrack a little.

Homocysteine is an amino acid produced when methionine -- an essential amino acid largely found in meat, fish, eggs, beans, and seeds – is broken down.

In healthy individuals receiving adequate nutrition, homocysteine is converted back to methionine and all is well.

Certain populations, however, run into some difficulties.

The group in the most danger consists of individuals born with a condition known as homocystinuria, in which the enzyme needed to convert homocysteine back into methionine is missing.

Consequently, homocysteine often accumulates in their systems.

Since vitamin B12 plays a major role in homocysteine-to-methionine conversion, vegans also run the risk of having high homocysteine levels.

Folic acid – another B vitamins -- also plays a crucial role in homocysteine breakdown.

This isn’t quite as troubling since a 1996 law passed in the United States requires folic acid fortification in refined grains, and the vitamin is easily obtainable from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.

High homocysteine levels are problematic because they damage the inside of arteries, thereby allowing blood clots to form and LDL to build up as plaque, heightening one’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

In conclusion...yet another reason to eat your veggies.

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