An amino acid called homocysteine may be as closely linked
to heart disease and easier to treat
Ordinarily, homocysteine is used by the body to help manufacture proteins and carry out cellular metabolism. Too much of it, however, appears to cause blood platelets to clump together and vascular walls begin to break down.
No one knows for certain what it is that causes some individuals and not others to overproduce homocysteine. However, evidence points to a shortage of vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid; all of which work to convert the amino acid into a molecular form the body can use. The influence of the B-group vitamins on plasma homocysteine raises the possibility of prevention or reversal of cardiovascular disease. It seems that supplementation, whether through vitamin supplements or vitamin rich food ranges, does offer a simple way of risk reduction. This is currently the subject of various prospective studies.
Homocysteine may well be behind some cases of heart disease but it is unlikely to be behind all. But even the most skeptical will estimate cardiac cases attributable to high homocysteine levels to be 20%.