B-12 and Homocysteine: The Key to Heart Disease, Stroke, and other Blood Clots
You’ve probably heard most of your life that it’s the cholesterol that is causing the number one killer of modern society: heart disease, strokes, arteriosclerosis, and related blood clot issues right? Cholesterol-lowering drugs have been top money makers for pharmaceutical companies for decades now. Would it surprise you to know that there was another theory and explanation for why so many are suffering that has been known for almost 50 years! In the 1960’s a pathologist at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Kilmer McCully was studying a group of children who were having strokes and blood clots. It turned out they had genetic vulnerabilities and inborn errors of metabolism, which left them deficient in folic acid, vitamin B-6 and Vitamin B-12. This led to their having high levels of Homocysteine, which seemed to put them at risk for “adult” cardiovascular issues like heart attacks, strokes, and blood clots. When he shared this with the world, he found that there was no interest and, in fact, he was told to look elsewhere as the research money was pouring in for the link between cholesterol and cardiovascular diseases.
There are now over a thousand articles confirming the link between Homocysteine and cardiovascular disease. The fact that the key metabolic pathway that takes Homocysteine to methionine and back around, releasing methyl groups (the methylation cycle), is perhaps the most important biochemical reaction in the body and could be responsible for heart disease, strokes, and blood clots which could be solved by just taking vitamins, was not going to make the pharmaceutical companies any money. When the pathway from Homocysteine to methionine (which requires B-6, B-12, and folate) is slowed due to deficiencies in any or all three of these vitamins, then Homocysteine accumulates.
High Homocysteine levels are associated with strokes, blood clots, and heart attacks. Beyond that however, it is also associated with pre-eclampsia, neural tube defects (that’s why we add folate to the prenatal vitamins), cognitive impairment from childhood developmental concerns to adult dementia and Alzheimer’s, depression, and inflammatory bowel disease.