Posted on Feb 12, 2021, 4 p.m.
There is a strong need for increased awareness, better prevention, detection, and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease with well over 5 million Americans currently suffering from this debilitating brain-wasting disease, and this number is projected to triple over the next few decades.
Research has found a link between Alzheimer’s disease and elevated levels of homocysteine. A recent study from Temple University has revealed another important connection between specific vitamin deficiencies and high homocysteine.
Elevated homocysteine can increase the risk of dementia up to tenfold, and the list of ways this can affect the brain is long and damaging. This can include but is not limited to the formation of plaque in blood vessels that supply blood to the brain, development of chronic inflammation in the brain, and shrinkage of areas in the brain associated with memory. Additionally, excess homocysteine promotes the neurofibrillary tau tangles and harmful beta-amyloid plaques that are associated with AD, and it can interfere with the DNA repair process needed for brain cell maintenance.
The harmful effects of elevated levels of homocysteine can all take a toll on brain function. For example, a study published in the Annals of Neuroscience found that elevated levels of homocysteine are associated with a 4.2-10.5 fold increased risk for vascular dementia, and the higher homocysteine rises the more damage it can cause. The study reported elevations in homocysteine were found to correspond closely to the degrees of cognitive impairment experienced by the participants.
A report published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease classified elevated homocysteine as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and cognitive decline. The researchers noted that the risk from elevated homocysteine was modifiable, meaning that reducing these levels could help to reduce the risk of brain damage.
The recent study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry describes the dangers of B-complex vitamin shortfalls in relation to homocysteine which is produced in the body in response to the breakdown of proteins and is normally detoxified by B-complex vitamins.
Mice were deprived of vitamins B6, B9, and B12 for eight months, the animals were found to display elevated levels of homocysteine and 50% more tau tangles in the brain. The increased levels also caused increased levels of the pro-inflammatory chemical 5-LOX. The animals also displayed considerable difficulty with learning and remembering a water maze compared to the control group.
The brain is not the only thing affected by high levels of homocysteine, this condition can also cause harm to the cardiovascular system including but not limited to damaging the lining of blood vessels, promoting deposits of plaque in the arteries that can cause a clog and increases the risk of heart attack or stroke. Research has shown that high levels of homocysteine is linked to a 42% increase in the risk of constricted carotid arteries which is a major risk factor for strokes.
Elevated levels of homocysteine and poor arterial function can combine to interfere with the ability of the body to counter dangerous clotting inside of the arteries as well as with the ability of the heart to adapt to a blocked vessel by creating a new pathway.
Elevated levels of homocysteine are dangerous to those with existing cardiovascular disease. A study involving over 3,000 participants with chronic heart disease found that elevated levels were associated with a 2.5 fold increased risk for coronary events. The researchers discovered a formula for measuring the risk, and suggested that every additional 5 micromoles per liter of homocysteine results in a 25% risk increase.
As a product of less efficient detoxification functions levels of homocysteine tends to increase with aging. Genetics, stress, and the use of prescription drugs can also affect homocysteine levels. Experts suggest that a shortage in vitamins B2, B6, B9, and B12 that normally detoxify the amino acid are often the reason behind increasing levels of homocysteine.
If you are concerned about your levels of homocysteine, or vitamin levels consult with your physician or certified medical professionals who may be able to address your concerns with a simple blood test. If you have reached or are approaching elderhood, with degenerative chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease on the rise it may be better to err on the side of caution and get checked rather than guess.
Experts suggest that B complex vitamins are involved in breaking down homocysteine in the blood. These vitamins can be supplemented, but it is always best to obtain them via natural sources such as is found in eating a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. For example, vitamin B9 can be obtained in leafy greens and lentils; and B6 can be obtained in potatoes, chickpeas, and bananas; while B12 can be obtained in dairy products and organ meats.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before making any changes to your wellness routine.
Materials provided by:
Content may be edited for style and length.
This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement