What is homocysteine?
Homocysteine is an amino acid that is formed as a byproduct in the body when methionine, another amino acid, is broken down. Normally, homocysteine is converted to other substances, but if there is a deficiency of important nutrients such as folic acid, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6, homocysteine can accumulate in the blood. High levels of homocysteine in the blood have been associated with increased risk of health problems such as cardiovascular disease, stroke and certain types of nervous system disease.
What can cause an elevated homocysteine value?
The most common cause of an elevated homocysteine value is reduced kidney function, this is something everyone gets when they get older. Elevated homocysteine levels also occur with a lack of folic acid or vitamin B12 (cobalamin) or B6, which is often caused by malnutrition or reduced absorption of nutrients from the gut. It can also be due to lifestyle factors such as stress and smoking or poor diet and drinks such as large amounts of tea, coffee or alcohol, fatty foods and a lack of fish and vegetables.
People with low metabolism, psoriasis, kidney disease or people taking medicines containing the active substance metformin (used for type 2 diabetes) or omeprazole (for heartburn and stomach ulcers) may have elevated homocysteine levels.
Low metabolism and osteoporosis are diseases that can lead to an elevated homocysteine value.
What can cause a low homocysteine value?
A low value of homocysteine can indicate that there are enough vitamins B6, B12 and folate in the body. Homocysteine is an amino acid that is formed from methionine and the levels in the blood are affected by nutrition and genetics.