advertisement



Q & A Library


Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Q
Handling High Homocysteine?

I understand some dieters are now trying to restrict methionine intake by avoiding protein sources high in that amino acid. The idea is to lower homocysteine and potentially increase longevity.  Is this wise?

A
Answer (Published 11/4/2008)

Homocysteine is a toxic amino acid, a breakdown product of protein metabolism that has been linked to heart attacks and strokes. At elevated levels, homocysteine is thought to contribute to plaque formation by damaging arterial walls. High homocysteine levels may also act on blood platelets and increase the risks of clot formation. In addition, some evidence suggests that people with high homocysteine levels have twice the normal risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor for Heart Health - A healthful diet and lifestyle, along with prudent supplementation, can help prevent or lessen the risk of heart disease and related illnesses such as hypertension, high blood pressure and cholesterol. Learn more, and get your free, personalized nutritional supplement and vitamin recommendation today.

Blood levels of homocysteine tend to be highest in people who eat a lot of animal protein. These people also tend to consume few fruits and leafy vegetables, which provide the folic acid and other B vitamins that help the body get rid of homocysteine.

In addition to its derivation from dietary protein, homocysteine is also produced in the body from another amino acid, methionine. One of methionine's main functions is to provide methyl groups for cellular reactions. A methyl group is a chemical fragment consisting of one carbon and three hydrogen atoms. When methionine donates a methyl group for a cellular reaction, it becomes homocysteine. Typically, homocysteine then receives another methyl group from either folic acid or vitamin B6 to regenerate methionine. Vitamin B12 acts as a co-factor for this reaction.

An inadequate intake of B vitamins, as well as genetic factors that affect the body's absorption and use of folic acid, can lead to high homocysteine levels. If this is the case, you need much more folic acid than the RDA of 400 mcg.

Other contributors to elevated homocysteine levels include stress and coffee consumption. The more coffee you drink, the higher your homocysteine levels are likely to be. The stress-induced neurotransmitters epinephrine and norepinephrine are metabolized in the liver via a process that uses methyl groups. This can also increase the need for folic acid.

To lower homocysteine levels, I recommend increasing your intake of B vitamins and moderating stress. The richest food sources of folate (the form of folic acid found in food) are green vegetables, orange juice and beans. I also recommend taking a multivitamin that gives you 400 micrograms of folic acid in addition to what you might get from your diet (Some people might absorb this vitamin better in supplement form, and I consider this good insurance.) To reduce stress, practice breathing exercises, meditation and mind-body exercises such as yoga.

Reducing foods high in animal protein can also help lower homocysteine levels, but I don't think you need to worry about restricting your intake of methionine. For optimum health, I recommend following my anti-inflammatory diet, which limits total protein intake to between 80 and 120 grams (three to four ounces) daily from fish, beans, whole soy and dairy products.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle, LLC on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being
in just eight weeks!
Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!
 

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe
Wellness Guide

Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid
Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you
and their corresponding answers
from Dr. Weil.

 
Copyright © 2014 Weil Lifestyle, LLC
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here