Do Elevated Homocysteine Levels Increase Risk For Alzheimer's Disease?

By Tom Nuckels

Like many people, you may be asking "what is homocysteine" and wondering how it could increase your risk of having Alzheimer's Disease. Homocysteine is an amino acid produced naturally by the body, but too much homocysteine in the blood is toxic and can lead to damage and blockage of the arteries and blood vessels.

This makes elevated homocysteine levels a risk factor for vascular disease like heart disease and stroke. During the last ten years research has revealed a possible connection between vascular disease and the Alzheimer's Disease and other kinds of dementia. "The New England Journal of Medicine" recently published a study that indicates that elevated levels of homocysteine may itself may increase older people's risk of Alzheimer's Disease and other forms of dementia.

About the study: A group of researchers at Boston University and Tufts University in Boston began studying a subgroup of participants of the Framingham Study during the period between 1986 and 1990.

The Framingham Study participants had been having complete physical exams and answering lifestyle questionnaires every two years since 1948. The subgroup was comprised of 1,092 men and women with an average age of 76. Participants in the subgroup were all free of any dementia at their 20th biennial exam. These occurred between the years 1986 and 1990. Blood homocysteine levels were checked at both the 20th and 16th biennial exams,

Participants of the subgroup underwent additional tests beyond those required by the Framingham Study protocol. Each participant of the subgroup had tests for dementia during the biennial exam from 1986 to December 2000. The results were evaluated by two neurologists and a neuropsychologist. Each participant was also tested for an apolipoprotein E gene - a known risk factor for Alzheimer's Disease.

The participant's medical records were reviewed by researchers form their 20th biennial exam through December 2000 along with their homocysteine measurements recorded from their 16th biennial exam. They were specifically looking at how homocysteine blood levels correlated with Alzheimer's Disease or other dementia.

Research findings: It was found that an increase of 5 micromoles of homocysteine per liter of blood increased the risk of Alzheimer's Disease by 40%. People with the highest levels of blood homocysteine had almost double the risk of Alzheimer's and other dementia as compared to people with lower blood homocysteine. This determination was made after accounting for other risk factors.

It is important to note that the statistics held true for homocysteine levels from both the 16th and 20th biennial exams. Since Alzheimer's Disease develops slowly, it may be the disease process had begun in some study participants at the 20th biennial exam but was not yet measurable. It would be very unlikely the participants were really free of disease at the 16th biennial exam, eight years prior.

What does this mean to you? We do know that elevated homocysteine levels may increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. The study finding now suggest that elevated homocysteine levels may also increase our risk of Alzheimer's Disease and other conditions of dementia as we age. However, they didn't go as far as proving elevated homocysteine levels an indicator of future Alzheimer's Disease. The participants age ranged from 68 years to 97 years which makes it unclear whether younger adults might be at increased risk of Alzheimer's later in life if they have elevated homocysteine levels.

Having said that, several other studies do suggest that keeping homocysteine levels in check may help prevent blood vessel damage and prevent atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). The good news is that it is easy to keep your homocysteine levels in the safe range.

Vitamin B-12, folic acid and vitamin B-6 when taken in food or supplements has been shown to reduce homocysteine levels in the blood. Although we don't yet know if this will also reduce the risk of Alzheimer's Disease, the known benefits make it worthwhile to make sure you obtain adequate supplies of these nutrients through diet and supplementation. Foods containing folic acid include:

* Fruits and orange juice from concentrate * Green, leafy vegetables * Dried beans and legumes * Liver * Grain products that have been fortified with folic acid, such as cereal, pasta, rice, and bread

Foods containing Vitamin B-12 include:

* Liver and other meats such as pork and beef * Eggs * Milk and other milk products

Vegetarians should note: they must supplement to get their vitamin B-12 as fruits and vegetables contain no vitamin B-12.

REFERENCES: Seshadri S, et al. "Plasma homocysteine as a risk factor for dementia and Alzheimer's Disease", "New England Journal of Medicine", February 14, 2002;346(7):476-483. Loscalzo J., "Homocysteine and dementias", "New England Journal of Medicine", February 14, 2002;346(7):466-468.

Tom Nuckels is a health article author and owner of LpVitamins. His customers range from children to the elderly and from carpenters to doctors. To learn what sublingual b12 and phytonutrients can do for you, visit lpvitamins.com.

More Resources

$errorCode = 9
xml_error_string() = Invalid character
xml_get_current_line_number() = 380
xml_get_current_column_number() = 23
xml_get_current_byte_index() = 39051
Custom Search

More Alzheimer's Articles:

Related Articles

The Symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease


Alzheimer's Disease is a disease that impairs the brain and causes memory loss, particularly in the elderly. What in effect happens is that nerve cells in the brain die manifesting itself with symptoms of memory loss. Nerve cells are crucial to the process of recall. Although the disease develops slowly it will eventually lead to death. Alzheimer's disease is the 9th most common cause of death for those who are 65 years old or more. It is worth noting that the average time from diagnosis till death is approximately 8 years, although some suffers have lived for 20 years, before the disease leads to death.

Alzheimer's Disease and Music Therapy


Activities for Alzheimers patients will often depend on the stages of Alzheimer's disease that the person is at. Alzheimer disease and music therapy are now used in many cases with some amazing results. One of the most remarkable things about this sad disease is the joy and comfort that Alzheimer's disease and music therapy can bring, my late Gran suffered from Alzheimer's in her latter years and my Dad used to always play some old songs on a Wednesday night.

New Brain Health Roadmap Announced


On June 10th something wonderful happened, and the media hasn't paid much attention yet. On that day, the National Public Health Road Map to Maintaining Cognitive Health was released by the CDC and the Alzheimer's Association. IN this article, I want to first share with you the 10 top actions proposed by this report, and then provide a quick glossary to explain the key words that you will hear more and more when discussing brain health.

Caring For Parents With Alzheimer's Disease


Alzheimer's disease directly affects about four million people in the United States, though it affects many more of us indirectly. While we may not be suffering from the disease personally, many of us are in a position where it has become necessary to care for someone with Alzheimer's.

Therapy Pets Prove Soothing to People With Alzheimer's


The recent win of Diamond Jim, an English Springer spaniel, at the Westminster Kennel Club's annual top dog competition in New York City brought attention to an increased calling for select pets across the country; serving as therapy dogs for people with Alzheimer's and other disabling ailments. The dog, commonly called James, is retiring from the show world to live the life of a therapy dog. James and his human partner have already worked with people with Alzheimer's, proving a soothing presence in nursing homes where they visit.

Helpful and Fun Activities For Patients With Alzhemier's Disease


If you are caring for someone with Alzheimer's Disease or even someone living with this disease there are some easy and fun activities that you can do to help ward off the effects of Alzheimer's disease. These activities will help to keep your brain active, flexible and alert.

Alzheimers Info To Make Your Life Easier


Probably one of the most difficult things you'll every have to do, is care for someone with Alzheimers. The reality that the person with Alzheimers is likely very close to you, only makes the task more challenging. Being armed with as much Alzheimers info as possible, and knowing where you can turn to if you need more help or information can make a world of difference. Being someone who cares for another human being puts you into a category with a high degree of burnout. It can be a stressful, thankless job. You need to stack the odds in your favor as much as possible.

Heavy Metal Anchors Alzheimer's in Your Brain


Heavy metals and aluminum are in every part of our environment and food. These elements are deadly and you will benefit if you are aware of what they do where they come from.

Signs of Alzheimer's Disease


As most of us grow older, it's normal to fear the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Millions of people around the globe suffer from its affects daily and since it is a disease that is so closely associated with growing older, it's natural to think that it is going to happen to you, especially if you have a family history of Alzheimer's in your family. There are signs of Alzheimer's disease that you can watch out for.

Do Elevated Homocysteine Levels Increase Risk For Alzheimer's Disease?


A natural amino acid called homosysteine has recently been linked to several age related diseases. Some researchers believe it may also be linked to the onset of Alzheimer's Disease.