More than thirty years ago Dr Kilmer McCully, a pathologist at Harvard Medical School, identified the link between high homocysteine levels and cardiovascular disease.
It was while studying a group of children who had extremely high levels of homocysteine due to inborn errors of metabolism. These children had suffered from blood clots and strokes, conditions which are normally associated with adults. This led Dr McCully to wonder whether high homocysteine levels were also responsible for adult strokes and atherosclerosis.
High Homocysteine Levels Lead To an Increased Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Dr McCully concluded that there was a link between high homocysteine levels in the body and cardiovascular disease. And the good news is that he also discovered a simple solution to this problem of high homocysteine. This was a solution that could potential reduce the number of heart attacks and strokes in this group of people. The simple solution was Vitamin B12 therapy.
Unfortunately, cholesterol was big news at the time and Dr McCully's research was ignored. Luckily for us, Dr McCully persevered, and now over thirty years later, the medical profession is starting to take notice.
How Vitamin B12 Helps Lower Homocysteine Levels
The food we eat contains 20 amino acids, one of which is methionine. Methionine breaks down into SAMe, which in turn breaks down into homocysteine, among other things. The body then uses Folic Acid and Vitamin B12 to help recycle the homocysteine back into methionine. For those that are deficient in either of these vitamins, the bad news is that the recycling cannot take place and levels of homocysteine build up in the body.
High levels of homocysteine are very bad news because they cause blood vessels to lose their elasticity. This means that it is harder for the blood vessels to dilate. This then causes the blood vessel lining to be damaged. This in turn allows cholesterol and other substances to stick to the inner lining of the blood vessels, leading to atherosclerosis. This is a known risk factor for stroke, heart attack and blood clots.
Vitamin Therapy (B12, B6 and Folic Acid)
Luckily there is a cheap and easy way to lower homocysteine levels. This is via Vitamin B12, Vitamin B6 and Folic Acid therapy. Many doctors are aware of the Folic Acid link, but many do not realize the importance of also including Vitamin B12, which is essential to Folic Acid assimilation. Just using Folic Acid will reduce homocysteine for some people but it doesn't work very well. Adding B12 and B6 is the solution. So if your homocysteine levels are high you should ensure that your doctor tests your Vitamin B12, B6 and Folic Acid levels. An MMA test is the most accurate for testing B12 levels.
Who's at Risk
The groups most at risk of Vitamin B12 deficiency are the elderly, vegans and vegetarians, those who have had gastric surgery and those who abuse drugs and alcohol. Some prescription and over the counter drugs can also lead to B12 deficiency.
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