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Can?t Think? Maybe Your Homocysteine Level is Up

Poor thinking recently joined the list of ills associated with high levels of homocysteine. This makes sense because elevated homocysteine is a marker indicating a:

  • Deficiency of vitamin B-12, or
  • Folic acid,
  • Or a deficiency of both

Homocysteine also is a well-documented risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which is related to both vascular dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Vitamin B-12 is required for a healthy central nervous system, and up to 10 percent of patients with pernicious anemia have prominent mental symptoms, including memory loss.

Both vitamin B-12 and folate are also necessary to ensure adequate methylation by S-adenosylmethionine in the synthesis of:

  • Neurotransmitters,
  • Myelin, and
  • Phosphatidylcholine,
  • as well as other compounds important to the nervous system

Many people routinely take high-dose vitamin supplements, and folic acid is typically in them. They also have vitamin B-12 in them, but because vitamin B-12 is such a large molecule it is very poorly absorbed and requires sublingual (under the tongue), injection therapy, or transdermal application for optimum absorption. Because of this vitamin B-12 is more likely to be a result of elevated homocysteine levels.

This is quite consistent with the finding that many vegetarians have elevated homocysteine levels. So one of the keys will be to eat plenty of raw vegetables as they have been shown to reduce homocysteine levels by increasing your folic acid levels.

However, if you are a vegetarian you will certainly want to get very serious about optimizing your vitamin B-12 levels. Since B-12 is readily available in most meats, low levels are not a problem for most people until they get older and lose the ability to make intrinsic factor to help them absorb vitamin B-12.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, September 2003 Vol. 78, No. 3, 441-447

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