September 20, 2007

The Dangers of Elevated Homocysteine Levels

Homocysteine may contribute to Heart Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, Cognitive Function Loss and osteoporosis.

Population studies have shown that people with cardiovascular disease have higher blood concentrations of homocysteine. Most researchers believe that elevated blood plasma homocysteine levels may contribute to an increased risk of developing certain forms of heart disease, blood clots and stroke.

A study conducted by researchers at Harvard University followed 15,000 people for five years and found that people with the highest homocysteine levels were more than three times as likely to have a heart attack as people with lower homocysteine.

An October 23, 2006 news release from the USDA, Agricultural Research Service, gives some interesting information regarding the dangers of elevated homocysteine levels.

During the last decade, the amino acid homocysteine - which is produced naturally in the body - has drawn much attention as a potential contributor to heart disease when blood levels are elevated. More recently, scientists have suggested that elevated homocysteine may contribute to other age-related diseases, including vascular disease, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease and other types of cognitive loss.

Homocysteine is formed when the body metabolizes another sulfur-containing amino acid, methionine. Normally, homocysteine is either degraded through a mechanism that uses vitamin B6, or it is metabolized back to methionine through one of two routes: one requires folic acid; the other requires vitamin B12.

Not surprisingly, researchers have found correlations between increased blood homocysteine and low intakes of vitamin B6, folic acid, or vitamin B12. On the other hand, people with lower concentrations of blood homocysteine have higher concentrations of vitamin B6, folic acid, and vitamin B12.

A normal concentration is around 10 micromoles per liter of plasma. Moderate concentrations range between 16 and 30 micromoles per liter; intermediate, between 31 and 100 micromoles per liter; and severe is more than 100 micromoles per liter.

Population studies have shown that people with cardiovascular disease have higher blood concentrations of homocysteine. But a correlation doesn’t prove that homocysteine itself is the true culprit. So a number of clinical studies are underway to see if lowering blood homocysteine concentrations will reduce cardiovascular disease. If the results are positive, public health professionals will likely develop strategies to insure that we consume enough vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folic acid.

One question that researchers are attempting to answer is why is elevated homocysteine bad. Is it just a marker of some other metabolic product that is the direct cause, or is homocysteine itself the bad guy?

More and more evidence suggests that homocysteine is one of the bad guys. It can react with proteins and other biologically important compounds that contain sulfur groups, causing them to stop functioning. The extent of damage is related to how much homocysteine these compounds are exposed to and how long they are exposed. Given enough time, even moderately elevated concentrations of homocysteine will cause damage.

Homocysteine can also oxidize compounds; oxidation is suspected to be one cause of cardiovascular problems. Preliminary data suggests that vitamin C may help prevent this oxidative damage. It is also interesting to note that homocysteine thiolactone, which is easily formed in the body from homocysteine and is just as damaging as homocysteine, is detoxified by an enzyme in HDL cholesterol - the good cholesterol. Hence, this might be another explanation why HDL cholesterol has beneficial actions.

All of this goes to show, once again, that a well balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables - excellent sources of vitamin B6, folic acid, and vitamin C - is a wise recommendation.

Source: Eric O. Uthus, USDA, Agricultural Research Service News & Events
Used with permission

September 15, 2007

Diabetes Increases Heart Disease Rate

Diabetes is Increasing Resulting in an Increase in Heart Disease

Increasing Proportion of Cardiovascular Disease Due to Diabetes Over the Last 50 Years

26/3/2007 - A new study shows that as rates of diabetes have risen in the U.S., the proportion of cardiovascular disease (CVD) linked to diabetes has also increased.

See my comments below this article.

These findings emphasize the need for increased efforts to prevent diabetes and to aggressively treat and control CVD risk factors among those with diabetes, according to the investigators from the long-standing Framingham Heart Study, a program of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health.

The researchers compared risk factors for cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular “events” such as heart attacks in Framingham study participants from two different time periods. The first group was examined between 1952 and 1974 and the more recent group was examined between 1975 and 1998. A total of 9,540 individuals age 45 to 64 were evaluated.

The risk attributable to diabetes was 5.2 percent in the earlier time period, compared to 7.8 percent in the later period. Most of the increased risk was observed among men. The scientists also reported that the prevalence of diabetes among those with CVD almost doubled between the earlier and later time periods and there was also an increase in the prevalence of obesity.

“Increasing Cardiovascular Burden Due to Diabetes: the Framingham Heart Study” is published in the March 27th issue of Circulation and is also currently available online (March 12 Rapid Access issue).

Caroline Fox, M.D., lead author and medical officer with the Framingham Heart Study of NHLBI, is available to comment on the study’s findings. She can discuss reasons for the increased burden of cardiovascular disease due to diabetes and the need to aggressively treat and control cardiovascular disease risk factors in people with diabetes.

To schedule interviews with Dr. Fox, contact the NHLBI Communications Office at 301-496-4236.

Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute


Kevin Flatt’s comments - Natural Health supplements for diabetes blood sugar control such as Cinnamon, Gymnema Sylvestre, Chromium picolinate and Cloves have all been shown to help prevent heart problems.

Cinnamon - It has been demonstrated that in people with type 2 diabetes, consuming as little as 1 gram of cinnamon per day was found to reduce blood sugar, triglycerides, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and total cholesterol. See - Type 2 Diabetes: Cinnamon Improves Blood Sugar Levels and Insulin Function

Gymnema Sylvestre - Cholesterol levels returned to near normal levels and triglycerides were lowered in the group taking Gymnema. See - Gymnema sylvestre: A well-proven treatment for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes

Chromium picolinate - Chromium picolinate, specifically, has been shown to reduce insulin resistance and to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. See - Diabetes: Chromium supplements drop blood sugar in 80 to 90 percent of patients

Cloves - Extracts of cloves were found to improve the function of insulin and to lower glucose, total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides in people with type 2 diabetes. See - Diabetes: Cloves improve insulin function, lowers glucose

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