Today’s article is about an amino acid that’s not found in foods, nor is it a building block of protein. It’s actually synthesized in your body, and high levels of it are associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis, bone fractures, heart problems, depression, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Clearly, it’s really important to maintain low levels of this harmful amino acid, so I’m happy to share with you exactly what you can do to achieve this.
But first, let’s examine the relevant scientific details on…
Homocysteine, A Harmful Byproduct Of Amino Acid Metabolism
Your body produces homocysteine when it metabolizes protein and breaks it down into individual amino acids. One of these is called methionine, which in turn is broken down into homocysteine. The process involves some familiar nutrients, including vitamins B6 (pyridoxine), B12 (cobalamin), and folic acid.
In fact, homocysteine and folic acid have a correlative relationship. When folic acid levels decrease, homocysteine levels increase, and vice versa. Here’s why.
Your body has only two options to get rid of homocysteine. One is to convert it into cysteine through a process called transulfuration, or back into methionine through a process called remethylation. Folic acid and B12 are required cofactors in remethylation. Transulfuration is an enzymatic process that requires B6.
What Causes Homocysteine Build-Up?
Because homocysteine results from the breakdown of protein, a high-protein diet sets the stage for excessive homocysteine levels in the blood. Coupled with a lack of B vitamins, high protein consumption can lead to dangerously high homocysteine levels.
If you’re following the Osteoporosis Reversal Program this is certainly not a cause of concern because of two reasons. With the 80/20 pH-balanced nutritional plan, protein intake can never be excessive. And the B vitamins necessary to tackle homocysteine levels are Foundation Supplements (more on this later).
What’s So Dangerous About Homocysteine?
At high levels, homocysteine weakens bones, resulting in fractures. As mentioned earlier, it also compromises proper heart function, and may increase the risk of depression, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Fracture Risk Increases With Homocysteine
Hip fractures are among the most dreaded and debilitating type of fracture. A remarkable study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism concluded that “high homocysteine levels are associated with an increased risk of hip fracture”.1
This may be due to homocysteine’s inhibitive effect on collagen formation. As I write in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program, “Homocysteine is typically linked with increased risk of heart disease, and it may also negatively affect bones by hindering the formation of collagen, an important bone protein.”
How Homocysteine Harms Your Heart
Homocysteine causes damage to the smooth tissue of the arterial wall. The damaged area then becomes inflamed and “rough,” causing plaque-forming materials to gather in the damaged area. The artery becomes clogged, bringing on the potential for a heart attack.
Homocysteine’s Effect On Your Brain
Interestingly, scientists have found that folic acid deficiency contributes to depression. Low folic acid levels are correlative to high homocysteine levels, and this amino acid can actually hinder normal brain function by inappropriate stimulation of nerve cell receptors.
Low levels of homocysteine-regulating nutrients contribute to neurological disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists have already linked B6, B12, and folic acid deficiency to impaired cognitive function, but just how the deficiencies caused the impairments was not known.
Now, however, with the knowledge of homocysteine and its relationship to these nutrients, research is pointing to high homocysteine levels as a prime culprit behind these devastating brain disorders.
Keeping Homocysteine In Check
Given the damage that this amino acid can do, it makes sense to keep its levels low in your body. Thankfully, there are some simple, nutritional ways to do that.
Omega-3s Decrease Homocysteine Levels
When researchers reviewed the data from 11 different placebo-controlled trials, they discovered something fascinating. Participants who took daily doses of Omega-3 fish oil ranging from 0.2 to 6.0 grams (200-6000 milligrams) had markedly decreased homocysteine levels.2 The reviewers recognized the implications, and called for further research to elucidate their findings.
There are no alkalizing foods that are high in Omega-3 fish oils, but there are plenty of fish dishes that, when properly prepared with alkalizing sides and toppings, can be a bone-healthy way of reducing homocysteine in your body. Here are some of the fish that are richest in Omega-3s:
Omega-3s are actually among the antioxidants recommended in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program, so Savers are already aware of their strengthening effect on bones.
B Vitamins Keep Homocysteine Levels Low
As discussed above, B vitamins are crucial for keeping homocysteine levels low. All of the B vitamins are Foundation Supplements in the Program, and now we know even more reasons why these nutrients are good for your bones and overall health. According to the Program, “it makes sense to take all the B-complex vitamins as they act in synergy with each other.”
Foundation Foods high in B-complex vitamins include:
- Chili peppers
- Brown Rice
- Brazil nuts
As scientists discover more and more ways in which specific body chemicals and nutrients work together to affect bone density and health, it still comes down to this basic truth as outlined in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program: bone health begins with a varied, healthful diet full of bone-building nutrients. And as you can see from today’s article, when you follow the Program, you’re also preventing nutritional imbalances that could negatively affect other aspects of your health.
So if you’re looking for ways to prepare and enjoy a diet rich in these healthful nutrients, please take a moment to check out Bone Appétit, the companion cookbook to the Program.
Inside Bone Appétit, you'll find over 200 recipes for Breakfast, Smoothies, Appetizers, Soups, Salads, Vegetarian Dishes, and plenty of Main Courses, including Fish, Poultry, and Beef, and even an entire Dessert section!
Recipes such as Cherry Walnut Bars, Mediterranean Sunrise, Pears ‘R’ Peachy, Guacamole Surprise, Curried Pumpkin Bisque, Alkaline Bliss, Vegetable Soup, Symphony Salad, Bistro Chili, Pasadena Citrus Pasta, Coconut Crusted Salmon, Fish N’ Fab, Waldorf Chicken, Jade Treasure, Stir-Fry, Mango Steak Delight, Country Peach Cake, Nutty Brownie Cake, Raisin Oatmeal Muffins, and many, many more!
Healthful food is meant to be delicious!
Till next time,
1 LeBoff, Meryl S., et al. “Homocysteine Levels and Risk of Hip Fracture in Postmenopausal Women.” Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2009; 94(4): 1207-1213. Web. https://kooperberg.fhcrc.org/papers/2009leboff.pdf
2 Huang, T., et al. “High consumption of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids decrease plasma homocysteine: a meta-analysis of randomized, placebo-controlled trials.” Nutrition. 2011; 27 (9): 863-7. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0032092/
Comments on this article are closed.
Thank you Vivian for your informative and inspiring articles. Please keep up the good work.
Good Afternoon Vivian,
WOW! Who Knew How Damaging Homocysteine Could To You. And I Thank You Very Much For Sharing The Things We Can Do, To Keep Homocysteine In Check!
Got To Go For Now. Take Care And Stay Well!
LOVE, LESLIE (MS. L. CARMEL)
Wow! This makes so much sense! I was diagnosed with a genetic deficiency called MTHFR last year and have only been taking supplements since. MTHFR is quite common, actually. The MTHFR gene provides instructions for making an enzyme called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase which plays a role in processing amino acids in a multistep process that converts homocysteine to another amino acid, methionine. I have osteopenia (and my 40-year old brother has osteoporosis). I just have to take a little supplement that makes up for the enzyme and viola! Of course, saving our bones is a multi-step process, just taking one little pill, and LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Vivian’s emails and publications. Just wanted to throw that out there in case anyone ever considered the MTHFR and bone-loss link. Getting tested for MTHFR is easy and fast and most doctors know what it is.
Which B-complex supplement would you recommend. I unfortunately take omeprazole which reduces stomach acid and the acid is needed to metabolize B vitamins, so I feel that I need a B-complex to maintain my mental acuity.
I believe most health food stores carry good brands of vitamin B supplements. Garden of Life brand has a pretty good reputation, although it’s a bit pricey.
I found an informative article on GERD and indigestion on http://www.healthwyze.org. Once there, just type in GERD or indigestion in the search box. Also, I recently began supplementing with Betaine HCL (stomach acid capsules) to aid with digestion and implemented Vivian’s great tips and information. This has made an improved difference as far as my digestion goes and we all know that’s where it all begins, right? Hope that helps.
From my reading of the post, one constituent of ALL protein breakdown in the human body is the amino acid homocysteine. You eat any protein, and your body turns some of it into homocysteine. This can be damaging, so you have to help the body get rid of it.
To help break it down you need foods rich in B6, B12, and folic acid. Omega-3 oils also reduce homocysteine.
So eat fish like salmon and snapper (with alkalizing side dishes) for the good Omega-3 oils and food like bananas, avocado, chilli peppers, eggs, brown rice and brazil nuts for your B vitamins.
You still need to eat protein foods, just don’t have a diet really high in protein, and balance your protein intake with foods that reduce homocysteine levels and that are alkalizing.
Not mentioned in the post is that some good sources of folic acid are lentils, broccoli, spinach (all leafy greens really), asparagus, kidney beans and citrus.
Think I have it right.
What do others think?
Would you please speak to wild vs. farm raised salmon. When I eat farm raised I feel gaseous, nauseous, etc. It is difficult to find wild salmon in our local markets now.
Oily fish and esp fish oil capsules . They need phosphorus protein to bind with the fish fat and transport it through the cell wall. Dr Joanna .Bugwig from Europe for 30 years studies fats and oils. She said the most available form of Phosphorus protein available for everyone around the world is Low fat cottage cheese. I found if I take a teaspoon of cottage cheese with the fish or capsules I don’t have any aftertaste or burping . It works. The after taste is not as (. I read in one Doctors news letter oxidation of the oil.) Just need the Ph. Protein to bind with .to transport it. I like the flavoured ones. Chives and basil. Chilli.
Farm raised Fish are crowded into concrete tanks. , in very high numbers. This does not allow for nature to keep the waters clean and disease away . Bacteria and fungi are prevalent so farmers use antibiotics “which is a fungus in it’s self) and other chemicals. . Some farms use pumps and water filtration but this is expensive. . If the farm is on a hill with a fast flowing stream they can divert the stream . but these are in low number.
Ocean cold water fish are clean in regard to bacteria and fungi But can be contaminated by Mercury or other metals . Just because the fish are on the top of the food chain . ” Always look on the label for testing for Mercury .
A young couple here in Australia had a very healthy diet and ate a lot of fish Because they wanted to have a family . after 5 years they had blood tests and found they had high levels of Mercury in their blood. Very much at risk for a baby and was causing infertility …. Very strict contraception and a DETOX diet . It was almost 2 years before they were cleared to have a baby. ” Only eat the big fish once a month and eat little fish more often . Bob . Retired Nurse..
I like your work and I share it with everybody
somehow missed “this protein” or are you saying all protein falls into this category?
Am aware and thankful for your good teaching on proper nutrition to build bone density and the many good exercises.
Did find it very frustrating to read your Title, but never find the answer in your writing, just many paragraphs of info previously presented…..
please clarify for me….what/which protein?
thank you for a world of knowledge.
I am spreading your information any chance I get.