How does folic acid help with homocysteine?

Homocysteine is a modified form of the amino acid methionine. The synthesis of methionine from homocysteine requires a folate coenzyme as well as a vitamin B12-dependent enzyme. Thus, folate deficiency can result in decreased synthesis of methionine and a buildup of homocysteine. By impairing DNA repair mechanisms and inducing oxidative stress, homocysteine can cause the dysfunction or death of cells in the cardiovascular and nervous systems. The emerging data strongly suggest that elevated homocysteine levels increase the risk of multiple age-related diseases. Dietary folate or folic acid (from fortified foods or dietary supplementation) stimulates homocysteine removal and may thereby protect cells against disease processes.

Folic acid benefits many areas of health. One crucial function is maintaining normal levels of homocysteine. This is an amino acid found in the blood. Too much of this amino acid may increase risks of some cardiovascular conditions. Cardiovascular involves the heart and blood vessels. These include:

  • Stroke. This is when blood stops flowing to the brain.
  • Coronary heart disease (CHD). This is a narrowing of the small blood vessels supplying the heart with blood and oxygen.
  • Peripheral vascular disease (PVD). This involves all diseases of the blood vessels outside the heart.

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Homocysteine is a protein precursor that at high levels is associated with heart disease, arteriosclerosis, stroke, and osteoporosis. No wonder they say truth is stranger than fiction.

Folic acid is involved with the breakdown of homocysteine. So the theory is that if there’s a steady supply of folic acid in your diet, homocysteine levels will be kept in check. (Note: vitamins B6 and 12 are also important in this process as well, so make sure you’re getting enough of all B vitamins every day.) However, no controlled treatment studies have ever documented that folic acid reduces your risk for arteriosclerosis, heart disease or stroke or affect the development or recurrence of these conditions. That being said, it is still incredibly important to get enough of your B vitamins every day.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.