Research » Homocysteine and Brain Health
Homocysteine and Brain Health
In an editorial in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine (February 14, 2002), Joseph Loscalzo, M.D. of the Boston University Medical Centre provides a compelling overview of the mechanisms relating elevated levels of homocysteine to various forms of vascular disease. Not only is homocysteine directly toxic to the cells lining arteries, but in addition, homocysteine has now been shown to initiate various biochemical processes directly linked to cell death.
Of the various cell types that suffer most when homocysteine is most elevated, brain neurons are perhaps the most sensitive. In the same issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers from Boston university School of Medicine describe a direct relationship between elevated homocysteine and risk for Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers measured baseline homocysteine levels in 1092 subjects and followed them for 8 years. There was a dramatic increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease after the 8 year period in the group of individuals with the highest homocysteine levels.
As the authors stated, “The results of our prospective, observational study indicate that there is a strong, graded association between total plasma homocysteine levels and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease”. Aside from dramatically increasing the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, homocysteine has now been directly linked to dramatically increased risk of so-called “silent strokes” now so commonly seen on brain MRI scans.
In an article entitled Homocysteine, Silent Brain Infarcts and White Matter Lesions: The Rotterdam Scan Study, researchers publishing their results in the March 2002 issue of the journal Archives of Neurology evaluated brain MRI scans and homocysteine levels in 1,077 people aged 60-90 years. The results once again revealed a profound relationship between elevation of homocysteine and risk for a brain damaging disease. The risk of a “silent stroke” was increased an incredible 250% in those participants with the highest homocysteine levels.