Two studies find supplementation and moderation are keys to lowering homocysteine

Growing evidence has identified serum levels of homocysteine as an independent risk factor for vascular disease. Two different studies in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined modifiable lifestyle choices, which can have a significant effect on homocysteine levels. Vitamin supplementationespecially with folic acidemerged as a strong influence on homocysteine levels, taking into consideration that the data for both studies were obtained before the implementation of folic acid fortification of the U.S. grain supply. Alcohol consumption, coffee, and smoking, and individual decisions on how much to moderate consumption of these items were all potential determinants of homocysteine levels.

The first study, by Jacques et al., consisted of offspring (and their spouses) aged 28-82 years old, of the original Framingham Heart Study, which was initiated in 1950. In this group, the consumption of more than one drink per day of liquor or red wine was associated with higher homocysteine levels, whereas white wine and beer were not. Heavy smokers (more than 26 cigarettes per day) had 16% higher homocysteine levels than nonsmokers, with a similar difference occurring in consumers of caffeine in the form of coffee or cola, but not tea. Significantly lower homocysteine levels were evident in those who regularly took vitamin B supplements, as opposed to those who did not.

A smaller study of 278 elderly subjects, the New Mexico Aging Process Study by Koehler et al., echoed the benefits of supplementation and moderation found in the Framingham Offspring Study. In comparison to nonusers, coffee and tea drinkers had higher homocysteine levels, but only at high consumption levels of >3 servings per day. The varying effects of alcohol consumption on homocysteine were a focus of the research among these elderly subjects, whose homocysteine levels were higher due to their age and whose cardiovascular risk was more immediate. Thirty-nine percent higher homo

Contact: Elizabeth Horowitz
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

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