Update 1/18/20. Homocysteine is an amino acid that may increase your risk of heart disease and other health problems. While this is probably not a routine blood test your doctor would prescribe for you; someone recently told me their homocysteine level was high, and they asked what they could do to reduce it. That's what prompted me to do this video. The video below describes 5 ways to reduce your levels. After I posted the video, I remembered another way, which I listed below.
What Is Homocysteine
Homocysteine is a type of amino acid. While we make it all the time, generally, the level is pretty low. In high amounts, it damages blood vessels and makes blood sticky. Both of these can increase your risk of heart disease, strokes, and other medical conditions. This compound is different from elevated cholesterol levels, which most of you are already familiar with.
Over the years, various studies have noticed higher levels tend to be associated with health conditions such as:
To be fair, some doctors view high homocysteine as controversial. That's because lowering it, doesn't seem to reduce the chances of having a heart attack. Regardless of your stance, this is probably not a compound you want a lot of floating through your bloodstream. We want to keep our levels low.
So how do we lower it?
Lowering Homocysteine Video Review
The 6th Way To Lower It
Aged Garlic Extract
Aged garlic extract is -as the name suggests – an extract from garlic. The extract is called S-allyl cysteine. There have been several clinical trials on aged garlic extract, showing it has anti-oxidant properties and can:
- Lower bad (LDL) cholesterol
- Lower blood pressure
- Alter gut micobiome
- Reduce plaque buildup in blood vessels
- Reduce advanced glycation endproducts
- Improve nitric oxide levels
Other clinical trials have also noted aged garlic extract reduces homocysteine levels too.
Because of the research, this is a supplement I've taken for several years.
Summary: Homocysteine Lowering Supplements I like
- B vitamins (folate, B6 and B12)
- Aged Garlic Extract
Homocysteine Blood Test Levels
Normal levels are usually between 4.4 to 10.8 µmol/L. Here are the ranges for elevated levels:
- Moderately high: 15 to 30 µmol/L
- Intermediate high 30 to 100 µmol/L
- Severe high greater than 100 µmol/L
The units used -µmol/L – refer to micro-moles per liter of blood.
Generally, if your levels are in the single digits, you're doing really well.
Top 10 FAQ
1 How do you pronounce it?
The word is pronounced ‘ho-mow-sis-teene.” Watch the video above to hear me pronounce it.
2 Where does homocysteine come from?
We make it. Eating foods high in animal protein can sometimes raise your levels, especially in those deficient in folate (folic acid) as well as B6 and B12. Some medical conditions like hypothyroidism can lead to higher levels too.
3 Do routine blood tests measure it?
A complete blood count (CBC) includes things red and white blood cells, while a lipid panel determines your levels of cholesterol, HDL, LDL, triglycerides, white blood count, etc. Neither test would measure your homocysteine. Your doctor will have to specifically ask to have this compound measured.
4 When would this test be done?
If your doctor suspects you are at risk of heart disease or thinks you may be deficient in B vitamins like folate, B12 or B6.
5 How long until levels go down?
If you're trying to reduce your level, give yourself at least 2 months between blood tests to see a difference.
6 Can it be genetic?
Sometimes yes. For example, MTHFR refers to a gene that makes an enzyme involved in homocysteine breakdown. Those with a mutation in MTHFR may have elevated levels.
Also, even in healthy people, levels tend to be higher in men than women. As we get older, levels tend to increase too, although this may be more due to eating a poor diet than aging.
7 How is it connected to cancer?
It's complicated. Some research suggests a link to the amino acid methionine. Cancer cells may use methionine to grow. Also, as methionine breaks down, it becomes homocysteine. So, in theory, lowering this compound may reduce cancer risk. This is speculative, though.
8. Do you need to fast before the test?
If you are getting a homocysteine blood test, you may not need to fast prior to having your blood drawn. Levels are generally similar if you fast vs. do not fast. Keep in mind that fasting may be required to measure other things your doctor wants to test for.
9 What foods lower it?
As a rule, foods are high in B vitamins, folate, B6, and B12. As mentioned in the video, of these three vitamins, I think folate is what most people are probably not getting enough of. Foods containing folate include green, leafy veggies like spinach, and beans, as well as oranges and other citrus fruits.
10 Does elevated homocysteine have any symptoms?
There are no obvious signs or symptoms if your levels are high. The only way to know is to get it tested.
Are Your Levels High?
Odds are, your doctor will not test for homocysteine unless she/he thinks there may be a problem. So if you really want to know, you can request the test be performed. Depending on your insurance, it may/may not be covered. If you do score high, don't be alarmed. Odds levels can be reduced by following the lifestyle changes outlined in the video and taking some inexpensive supplements, and/or eating better.
Hi Joe, I’m doing Joe Cannon “Continuing Education” so I can keep up with what’s healthy and what isn’t, and this was this week’s lesson. A good one because I’m sure people wonder what a high homocysteine level means. That was a great point about Folate, too. I kind of shuddered that you put Turmeric on oatmeal, but we all have our faults! LOL!
One correction I’d like to make is about the CBC blood test. It stands for Complete Blood Count, and it measure the percentages (and absolute values) of red blood cells (and various components), white blood cells and others, and platelet counts. Metabolic blood tests or Blood Chemistries include such things as kidney and liver function tests, blood sugar levels, and electrolytes. A Lipid Panel gives Cholesterol and Triglyceride results.
These are the usual lab tests a physician routinely orders, for instance, if we have a physical exam. Then s/he may add other tests to the basics depending on what is going on with the person. A little thing, but I thought I’d mention it.
Thanks for another great review.
Joe Cannon says
Roseann, that’s a great point and I thank you for that clarification. I have corrected my mistake 🙂
Once the body is in ketosis burning fat instead of glucose the keto diet is working. But you may not feel so great at first, hence the term keto flu. “In the process of breaking down fat, the body produces ketones, which are then removed by the body through frequent and increased urination.
Joe Cannon says
Some of those ketones are used by the brain for energy production too. What people call a keto flu, is the body trying to adapt to a lack of carbs.