The condition of a human body is largely a reflection of the food intake by it. While having a rich diet might be a treat for the taste buds, the body has to exert for long to get rid of the by-products created in the process of breaking down the bigger molecules in order to assimilate nutrients. One such by-product that gets build up in the body is Homocysteine, a homologue of a semi essential amino acid cysteine.
Higher levels of homocysteine in the blood makes a person more prone to cell injury on the interior surface of blood vessels and lymphatic vessels (endothelial cell injury), which in turn causes inflammation in the blood vessels, and may lead to plague buildup in arteries, which can result in ischemic injury caused by shortage of oxygen due to restricted blood supply. High levels of homocysteine in the blood can, therefore, be a risk factor for coronary artery disease, which occurs when a plaque buildup blocks blood flow to the coronary arteries, which supply the heart with oxygenated blood.
Excessive homocysteine in blood has been established to have correlation with the occurrence of blood clots, strokes conditions and heart attacks. It has also been associated with miscarriage during early pregnancy and cognitive memory degeneration in old age. Conditions like diabetes often magnify the adverse effects. A 5 umol/L increase in homocysteine has been associated with a 60% increase in cardiovascular mortality in diabetics versus a 17% increase in non-diabetics. [JM1] Abnormally high levels of homocysteine in the serum, above 15 µmol/L, has been claimed to be a significant risk factor for the development of a wide range of diseases, including thrombosis, neuropsychiatric illness, and fractures. Homocysteine levels are typically higher in men than women, and increase with age. You are four times more prone to have Alzheimer’s disease with age, if you have high homocysteine levels.
This amino acid by-product, which acts as a vascular toxin and neurotoxin, however, can be easily broken down in the body by the action of Vitamins B6 and B12 along with folate rich diet. Choline, a water-soluble vitamin-like essential nutrient is also helpful to neutralize homocysteine in blood. It is a basic constituent of lecithin, which is present in many plants and animal organs.
The vegetarian food sources rich in Vitamin B6 are potatoes and other starchy vegetables, and non-citrus fruits. Non-veg options rich in B6 include fish, poultry, etc.
Folates are plant-based, extensively available in dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, beans, chickpeas and lentils. Vitamin B12 is naturally found in animal products, including fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products. Vitamin B12 is generally not present in plant foods, but fortified breakfast cereals are a readily available source of vitamin B12 with high bioavailability for vegetarians.
Eggs, liver and peanuts are especially rich in choline. Spinach, beets, wheat, and shellfish are also good sources of the choline metabolite, betaine.
Both Vitamin B6 and B12 along with Choline are water soluble and cannot be stored in the body. It is hence imperative to have them on a regular basis so that the optimum body metabolism is maintained. In case of vegans, having a Vitamin B12 supplement of around 1000 Mcg every day should provide the essential required Vitamin B12 levels for good health, since it cannot be derived from plant-based sources.
Having these food items in adequate quantities shall help in keeping the harmful effects of homocysteine at bay and make it possible to enjoy:
· Good heart health along with prevention of repeat coronary condition in patients;
· Low risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s;
· Low risk of paralysis and stoke.
It also helps to keep you in a good mood and make you feel energetic and active. Eat right, stay healthy.