For many years doctors have known that people with very high levels of homocysteine in their blood often develop severe osteoporosis early in life. As homocysteine levels rise above 9 mg/dl the risk of heart attacks, strokes and developing Alzheimer’s disease goes up. There is already more than enough reason to take steps to lower the homocysteine level in the blood if it is moderately elevated, but until the results of a new study were published in the New England Journal of Medicine in May there was no good evidence that lower homocysteine levels might also prevent damage to the bones leading to hip fractures.
Hip fractures are the number-one cause of elderly people being forced into nursing homes. Researchers in Holland found that the people in a test group whose homocysteine levels were in the top 25% were twice as likely to suffer a hip fracture as those whose homocysteine levels were in the bottom 25% of the group. The authors of this study conclude, “An increased homocyteine level appears to be a strong and independent risk factor for osteoporotic fracture in older men and women.”1
Supplements of folic acid, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 and either choline and/or betaine can lower elevated homocysteine levels. By contrast diets high in fatty meats and particularly processed meats like hot dogs, sausages, bologna and pepperoni markedly increase the level of homocysteine in the blood. Fasting homocyteine levels tend to be elevated in people who eat fewer whole grains, fruits, vegetables and nonfat dairy products.
There is already convincing evidence that lowering high cholesterol levels reduces the risk of osteoporosis and hip fractures. This new data demonstrates a strong connection between modestly elevated homocysteine levels and an increased risk in hip fractures, which provides another reason to discourage Americans from following diets high in protein, salt and animal fats and low in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.
By James Kenney, PhD, RD, LD, FACN
1. N Engl J Med 2004;350:2033-41
Judy’s passion for cooking began with helping her grandmother make raisin oatmeal for breakfast. From there she earned her first food service job at 15, was accepted to the world famous Culinary Institute of America at 18 (where she graduated second in her class), and went on to the Fachschule Richemont in Switzerland where she focused on pastry arts and baking. But after learning that the quality of a croissant directly varies with how much butter it has, Judy sought to challenge herself by coming up with recipes that were as healthy as they were tasty.
Judy received The Culinary Institute of America’s Pro Chef II certification, the American Culinary Federation Bronze Medal, Gold Medal, and ACF Chef of the Year. Her enthusiasm for eating nutritiously and deliciously leads her to constantly innovate and use the latest in nutritional science to guide her creativity, from putting new twists on fajitas to adapting Italian brownies to include ingredients like toasted nuts and cooked honey. Judy’s publishing company, Food and Health Communications, is dedicated to her vision that everyone can make food that tastes as good as it is for you.