Homocysteine is an amino acid. It is formed during the metabolism of methionine and cysteine. Methionine is an essential amino acid that our bodies do not produce. We have to get this amino acid from the foods we eat (Brazil nuts, fish, and meat). Cysteine is an amino acid that is critical for the formation of glutathione – the master antioxidant. Glutathione is responsible for many functions in the body. Some are:
● Regulation of cell growth and division
● DNA synthesis and repair
● Protein synthesis
● Amino acid transport
● Enzyme catalysis
● Enzyme activation
● Metabolism of toxins
Glutathione is a sulfur-dense molecule. In the liver, glutathione donates a sulfur group which adheres to a toxin molecule. This makes it easier to process and remove the toxin from the body. With a balance of nutrients, the body can convert excess methionine with the help of folic acid, vitamin B12, and vitamin B6. When these vitamins are not present in normal levels, homocysteine levels increase. As a result, the risk of cardiovascular disease increases. The level of cysteine in your body determines your level of glutathione.
Homocysteine is a by-product of methionine and cysteine. High levels of homocysteine increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, depression and Alzheimer’s disease. Balanced nutrition provides the right amounts of all key vitamins, minerals, amino acids and other nutritional molecules.
Homocysteine and cholesterol seem to exacerbate the formation of plaques in the arterial walls. This is one of the reasons why having a balanced nutritional diet is so important. Homocysteine also affects your brain. High levels of homocysteine are linked to brain shrinkage. I always insist on a homocysteine level blood test on my annual physicals. It allows me to track homocysteine levels in my body. Nutritional options to reduce homocysteine include:
● Vitamin C
● Folic acid
● Vitamin B12
● Vitamin B6