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Homocysteine and longevity

BERGEN, NORWAY. It has been known for about 20 years that a high blood level of homocysteine is a potent risk factor for heart disease. Researchers at the University of Bergen now report that a high homocysteine level is a risk factor for premature death overall, whether it be from heart disease, stroke, cancer, lung disease or whatever.

The study involved 2127 men and 2639 women aged 65 to 67 years when they entered the study between 1992 and 1993. By February 1997 162 men and 97 women had died; 121 from cardiovascular causes (including stroke), 103 from cancer, and 33 from other causes. Using a baseline homocysteine level of 9.0 micromol/L the researchers found that for every 5.0 micromol/L increment in homocysteine levels all-cause mortality increased by 49 per cent, cardiovascular mortality by 50 per cent, cancer mortality by 26 per cent, and deaths from other causes (respiratory, gastrointestinal and central nervous system diseases) by 104 per cent. These percentages refer to values obtained after adjusting for cholesterol level, blood pressure, smoking, body mass index, physical activity, cardiovascular disease risk status at baseline, age and gender. About 78 per cent of the study group had homocysteine levels at or above 9.0 micromol/L and 12 per cent had levels exceeding 15 micromol/L.

Smoking and drinking coffee were associated with higher homocysteine levels while taking vitamins and exercising were associated with lower levels. The researchers conclude that homocysteine levels have a pervasive influence on longevity and recommend that future research on homocysteine and health should focus on diseases other than cardiovascular ones. Editor's Note: Homocysteine levels can be safely and effectively lowered by daily supplementation with folic acid (800 micrograms/day), vitamin B6 (50- 100 mg/day) and a vitamin B12 (1000 micrograms/day) sublingual tablet.
Vollset, Stein Emil, et al. Plasma total homocysteine and cardiovascular and noncardiovascular mortality: the Hordaland Homocysteine Study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 74, July 2001, pp. 130- 36
Malinow, M. Rene. Plasma concentrations of total homocysteine predict mortality risk. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 74, July 2001, p. 3 (editorial)

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