Why Homocysteine is Important & What You Need to Know
Knowing the health of your brain is key to keeping it strong over the long run. If you have followed any of my work, you have likely heard me say, “you cannot change what you do not measure.” And although we routinely screen other organs for trouble, very few people ever screen the health of their brains.
One of the critical ways to track the health of your brain is to know your important health numbers (such as BMI, waist-to-height ratio, sleep hours) and baseline screening labs (like fasting blood glucose, C-reactive protein, vitamin D, ferritin). Then work with your health-care professionals to optimize those numbers, not just have them in the normal range.
However, there is one very important screening lab that the majority of people are not aware of: checking your homocysteine level. Most health-conscious people know their cholesterol level but few know their equally important homocysteine number.
Homocysteine is a naturally-occuring amino acid that is quickly converted to another amino acid called cysteine. If conversion of homocysteine to cysteine is somehow impaired, homocysteine levels rise and become harmful.
Elevated levels of homocysteine have been linked with a diverse spectrum of health disorders ranging from cardiovascular disease and stroke to migraine, macular degeneration, and cognitive decline. Additionally, research suggests that changes in homocysteine levels correlate with changes in mood. Most conventional physicians fail to detect and treat elevated levels of homocysteine in the blood.
High homocysteine levels in the blood increase LDL cholesterol, which have been associated with damage to the lining of arteries and atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries).
So what can you do to regulate your homocysteine levels?
Reduce your coffee intake. Two studies showed that 200 mg of caffeine (equivalent to two cups of coffee) raised homocysteine levels.
Eat more fruits and vegetables. This can help regulate your homocysteine level by increasing how much folate you get in your diet. Good sources of folate include spinach, asparagus, broccoli, strawberries, and blackberries.
Increase the amount of vitamins B-6 and B-12 in your diet. Garbanzo beans (also called chickpeas), salmon, organ meats (such as liver), chicken, bananas, sweet potatoes, lentils, and sunflower seeds are all excellent sources of vitamins B-6 and B-12.
Lose weight if you’re overweight. Multiple studies have demonstrated that an increase in Body Mass Index (BMI) is associated with an elevated homocysteine level. Conversely, other studies have shown that a decrease in weight is correlated with a decrease in homocysteine levels.
Supplement with betaine. BrainMD Health’s new supplement, Betaine TMG supports healthy homocysteine metabolism. Betaine readily provides methyl needed to recycle homocysteine. Many individuals who are unable to achieve healthy homocysteine regulation by taking folate and vitamin B12 experience success by taking betaine. To promote healthy homocysteine metabolism, take 2 capsules once or twice daily. Betaine is very safe to take, and some individuals may benefit from even higher intakes, as recommended by a nutritionally informed practitioner.