What is homocysteine?
Homocysteine is made from methionine, which is found in large amounts in all animal proteins.
Why should I lower it?
Too much homocysteine in the blood has been shown to raise the risk of coronary heart dis- ease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease. Several studies have also shown elevated levels are associated with an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
How does it get too high?
Elevated homocysteine levels can result from an inadequate intake of several B-vitamins and too much animal protein foods.
How do I lower it?
Consume more foods with B- 12, B-6 and folate. Consume fewer animal protein foods.
What do I eat more of?
- Beans are high in folic acid. So when you eat beans instead of meat, that helps lower homocysteine (as well as LDL or “bad” cholesterol, also linked to Alzheimer’s and dementia).
- Seafood has omega-3s and is a good source of B-12. Both adequate omega-3s and B-12 are needed to help prevent the decline of mental function with age.
- Fruits and vegetables are good sources of folate, B-6 and potassium and are low in sodium. They help keep blood pressure as well as homocysteine levels low, both of which are strongly linked to a loss of mental function.
- Whole grains are a good source of B-6 and folate, and like other plant foods, help keep LDL levels down.
- Non-fat dairy and/or fortified soy milk are both an excellent source of B-12 and a good source of B-6. They are also high in calcium so they help lower blood pressure.
All of these foods help you feel fuller on fewer calories, which helps prevent weight gain, insulin resistance and rising blood sugar levels. Put it all together, and you have a diet that will most likely lower the risk for heart disease and prevent the loss of mental function with age.
What do I eat less of?
- Meats, eggs and dairy are all rich in L-methionine and large amounts can double or triple serum homocysteine levels for several hours after a meal.
- High-fat and high-refined carbohydrate foods are generally low in B-vitamins. Such foods promote weight gain and diabetes, both of which also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and speed the loss of cognitive function with age.
By James J Kenney, PhD, FACN
Stephanie Ronco has been editing in a professional capacity for the past 10 years. In addition to her work as an editor, Ronco has also served as a ghostwriter and writing tutor. A voracious reader, Ronco loves watching language evolve and change. When she’s not delving into her latest project, Ronco can be found teaching acting classes, performing in community theater, or sailing with her husband.