Life Extension Update
|March 09, 2004|
|Life Extension Update Exclusive |
Folic acid fortification prevents much more than neural tube defects
The CDC team, led by Quanhe Yang, PhD, studied national death certificate data to determine changes in mortality trends following the implementation of folic acid fortification. They found the improvement in death rates due to ischemic heart disease and stroke were not explained by changes in other major risk factors, such as smoking and hypertension, many of which did not improve during the period examined.
The researchers suggest that folic acid may be helping to lower serum homocysteine in the U.S. population, thereby reducing fatalities from cardiovascular disease and stroke. Dr Botto explained, “Many studies have shown that folic acid can lower serum homocysteine levels, and that people with higher than average homocysteine levels are at higher risk for stroke and heart disease. We think high homocysteine somehow causes an insult on the vascular wall, weakening the vessel and making it more prone to damage. “
"We found evidence of a three-fold acceleration in the decline of stroke-associated mortality that is temporally related to fortification of flour with folic acid,” Dr Botto summarized. “If folic acid fortification is responsible for the improvement in stroke-associated mortality, the public health benefits are substantial . . . Importantly, the decline in mortality associated with stroke showed a consistent pattern that ran across all genders and racial groups, with improvements for both men and women, whites and blacks.”
Elevated homocysteine can be reduced (or detoxified) in two ways. The most common pathway is via the remethylation process, where methyl groups are donated to homocysteine to transform it into methionine and S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe).
A potent remethylation agent is TMG, which stands for trimethylglycine. The tri means there are three methyl groups on each glycine molecule that can be transferred to homocysteine to transform (remethylate) it into methionine and SAMe. The remethylation (or detoxification) of homocysteine requires the following minimum factors: (1) folic acid, (2) vitamin B12, (3) zinc, and (4) TMG.
Choline is another "methyl donor" that helps to lower elevated homocysteine levels, and this conversion doesn't require cofactors. However, choline only enhances remethylation in the liver and kidney, which is why it is so important to take adequate amounts of remethylating factors such as folic acid and vitamin B12 to protect the brain and the heart. The published literature emphasizes that folic acid and vitamin B12 are critical nutrients in the remethylation (detoxification) pathway of homocysteine.
The other pathway in which elevated homocysteine is reduced is via its conversion into cysteine and eventually glutathione via the trans-sulfuration pathway. This pathway is dependent on vitamin B6. The amount of vitamin B6 required to lower homocysteine has considerable individual variability. Methionine is the only amino acid that creates homocysteine. People who eat foods that are high in methionine (such as red meat and chicken) may need more vitamin B6. Elevated homocysteine can occur when there are insufficient vitamin cofactors (such as folate and vitamin B6) to detoxify the amount of methionine being ingested in the diet.
B vitamins are used in the body individually or in combination with enzymes to help release energy from carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Vitamin B coenzymes are crucial to the metabolic pathways that generate the energy needed by every cell in the body. Because they are co-dependent in their metabolic activities, a deficiency of one B vitamin can affect optimal functioning of organ systems throughout the body.
Folic acid (folate) is a member of the B-complex family. It is found in abundance in leafy green vegetables, but is often deficient in the standard American diet. Folic acid participates in a coenzyme reaction that synthesizes DNA needed for cell growth and new cell formation and helps convert vitamin B12 to one of its coenzyme forms.
Choline is a substance needed by the brain to produce acetylcholine, a major brain/motor neuron neurotransmitter that facilitates the transmission of impulses between neurons.
The importance of choline for maintaining health in adults has been recognized for some time, but published studies point to its critical role in brain development.
|Life Extension Magazine March 2004 issue |
Riboflavin intake was sufficient for the most part, with only 2% of the study participants below the RDA. By contrast, more than 82% of the women had a folate intake below the RDA. Blood levels of cobalamin, thiamine, and pyridoxine were below the respective RDAs for these vitamins in 42%, 29%, and 17% of the women, respectively. Plasma homocysteine was dramatically elevated in 17% of the study participants. Because the subjects had above-average levels of education, the researchers speculated that poor B-vitamin status might be even more prevalent in the general population.
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