Understanding Homocysteine

What is Homocysteine?
Simply stated, it’s an amino acid. Our bodies are built on proteins, and the building blocks of all proteins are amino acids. Methionine, an essential amino acid derived from dietary protein, is the source of all homocysteine found in our bodies. In the liver, methionine is continuously converted to homocysteine, and back again to methionine. This reversible cycling of these two amino acids is dependent upon vitamins B12 and folic acid. Deficiencies of either of these vitamins can lead to an unhealthful accumulation of homocysteine. A second irreversible process converts homocysteine to cysteine, which can then be excreted in the urine. This process is dependent upon the help of yet another vitamin, B6. Once again, a deficit in B6 can lead to a build up of too much homocysteine.

Why Decrease Homocysteine Levels?
Research demonstrates that elevated homocysteine is associated with an increased risk of developing several devastating illnesses including heart attacks, strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, macular degeneration, and osteoporotic bone fractures. The reason high homocysteine levels predispose to the development of these ailments is being carefully evaluated by our top scientists and doctors; it is felt that several mechanisms are at work. Homocysteine can directly damage our arteries’ inner linings, leading to the build up of plaque and blood clots. It can also oxidize LDL cholesterol, making this type of fat more likely to cause coronary and carotid artery disease. High homocysteine levels also block our body’s natural ability to break down clots. Thus, when clots do form in the arteries feeding our brains and hearts, high homocysteine levels make it harder for our bodies to dissolve them before they totally block the flow of oxygen to these vital organs, causing strokes and heart attacks. It has even been shown that when homocysteine levels are high DNA damage can occur in brain cells, causing their premature death.

What You Can Do
First of all, life style changes can help. Quitting smoking, decreasing caffeine consumption, exercising more, and eating less can all help lower homocysteine levels. Supplementation with vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid can also help reduce homocysteine levels to a normal range.  At times, additional supplementation with N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) is indicated to help bring down homocysteine levels as well.  Currently, studies are being conducted to evaluate the long-term benefits of diminishing homocysteine levels to normal. It is hoped that normalization of these levels in patients with high blood homocysteine will help reduce the incidence of heart attacks, strokes, Alzheimer’s, macular degeneration, and even osteoporotic fractures.

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Scientific evidence indicates that healthful homocysteine levels are important for maintaining heart health, strong bones, and cognitive function.*  Homocysteine levels are raised by:  tobacco abuse, high cholesterol, coffee consumption, alcohol, high calorie diets, sedentary lifestyles, renal insufficiency, hypothyroidism, and theophylline.  Moreover, low levels of B vitamins (folic acid, B6, and B12) also contribute to elevated homocysteine.

HomocysteineFormula is a nutritional supplement that combines potent amounts of vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid and is designed for people who have high homocysteine levels.  Because of significant variations in response among people taking this formula, it is best to monitor blood levels of homocysteine.

  • Folic Acid – Utilized for energy production and the formation of red blood cells.  It strengthens immunity by aiding in the proper formation and function of white blood cells.  It also helps maintain arterial heath and limit the accumulation of homocysteine.
  • Vitamin B6 – Plays a role in immunity and helps maintain arterial health.  It also limits the accumulation of homocysteine.
  • Vitamin B12 – Needed to prevent anemia.  It aids folic acid in regulating the formation of red blood cells.  This vitamin is required for the synthesis of protein, and the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats.  It also helps maintain healthy arteries and limit the accumulation of homocysteine.
  • Pure USP Pharmaceutical Grade quality
  • Independently assayed by FDA registered laboratories for safety and purity.

Some people may benefit from additional supplementation with N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) in order to achieve an optimal homocysteine level.*

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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Age-related Macular Degeneration

Leading Cause of Blindness
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in persons over age 55 – it is an incurable eye disease that causes progressive visual loss as a result of degeneration of the macula. The macula is the portion of the retina responsible for our fine central vision; it receives visual information that is sent to the brain. A damaged macula leaves us unable to distinguish detail and causes localized areas of central vision loss. Although peripheral vision remains intact, things that we take for granted like reading, recognizing faces, and driving are just a few of the tasks that become difficult.

No Known Cure
Even more disheartening is the fact that there is no known cure for AMD and no clear understanding of its cause. Some of the most exciting research related to macular degeneration has been in the area of nutrition and has suggested that certain antioxidants including lutein and zeaxanthin may significantly reduce the risk of AMD.  The carotenoids lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin are the main components of the macula’s luteal pigment that protects the retina by absorbing damaging ultraviolet light and neutralizing free radicals that can harm the eye. Studies have provided evidence that supplementation with lutein and zeaxanthin is associated with significant improvement in the density of the protective macular pigment.  The studies also demonstrated clinical benefits; those who took a 10 mg supplement of lutein every day over a year’s time began to see about one line better on eye charts.

What You Can Do
Manage known modifiable risk factors for AMD. Exercise and eat a healthful diet to prevent obesity, diabetes, elevated cholesterol and high blood pressure. Avoid sugary snack foods. Choose a diet low in saturated fats and high in fruits and vegetables. Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, plus broccoli, peas, squash, and egg yolk, corn, orange peppers, oranges and honeydew. Taking a supplement that contains appropriate amounts of antioxidants and lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin can help preserve vision.  The omega-3s also support eye health; in particular DHA, which accumulates in the eye, protecting nerve cells from damage. Shield your eyes from harmful ultraviolet light by wearing quality sunglasses.  Finally… that ubiquitous warning: STOP smoking.  Studies show that smokers have lower levels of lutein and are at much greater risk of developing AMD.  Even passive smoking doubles the risk of AMD.

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Ask the Doctor Interview: Dr. Seth Baum on Advanced Lipid Testing

My recent interview on WPTV’s “Ask the Doctor” segment focusing on the diagnostic insights doctors can gain from advanced lipid testing.

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