Harvard Health Letter

By the way, doctor: B vitamins and homocysteine

Q. How do B vitamins lower your homocysteine level, and how important is it to have a normal level?

A. Homocysteine is an amino acid that is part of everyone's normal body chemistry. But people with high concentrations in their blood are at increased risk for heart disease, stroke, and cognitive decline. In families with a rare genetic condition that causes very high homocysteine levels, even young children can die from heart attacks.

B vitamins — particularly B6, B12, and folic acid — lower homocysteine levels by stimulating enzymes that transform homocysteine into other, less harmful amino acids. So it seemed important to test whether lowering homocysteine levels with B vitamin supplements would, in fact, translate into health benefits.

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