Alzheimers disease and homocysteine

May 31, 2013
  by Gabe Mirkin, MD

The most common cause of senility in North
 America is Alzheimer’s disease, a horrible
 condition in which a person loses his capacity
 to reason, think, recognize and function. A
 study in the New England Journal of Medicine
 shows that people who have high blood levels of
 a protein called homocysteine are the ones most
 likely to suffer Alzheimer’s disease(1).

Former president Ronald Reagan had Alzheimer’s
 disease, as have some Nobel Prize winners and
 some of the most brilliant people who have
 walked this earth. An article in the Journal of
 the American Medical Association showed that
 extraordinarily poor people in Ibadan, Nigeria
 are far less likely to develop Alzheimer’s
 disease than their relatives in Indianapolis,
 further confirming that Alzheimer’s disease is
 probably not genetic but is caused by something
 in North American lifestyle or environment (2).
 One in ten North Americans develop Alzheimer’s
 disease by age 65, and 5 in 10 develop it by
 age 85.

Alzheimer’s disease means that the brain is
 damaged and dying brain cells mix with tangles
 of the protein beta amyloid. Ten years ago, the
 Kentucky nuns study showed that nuns who have
 the most ministrokes show the symptoms of
 Alzheimer’s disease, while many with lots of
 beta amyloid do not have signs of that disease.
 Anything that increases your chances of
 developing a stroke or a heart attack also
 increases your chances of developing
 Alzheimer’s disease. So the risk factors for
 Alzheimer’s disease include smoking, being
 overweight, not exercising, eating a high fat
 diet, eating too many calories, and having high
 blood pressure or high blood cholesterol
 levels. Dietary risk factors include not eating
 enough vegetables; lack of omega-3 fatty acids
 found in whole grains, beans, seeds and deep
 water fish; and eating too much meat.

Dr. David Snowden shows in his Kentucky Nuns
 Study that nuns who were most likely to suffer
 Alzheimer’s disease have low blood levels of
 the vitamin folic acid and high levels of the
 protein building block homocysteine. Not eating
 enough leafy greens and whole grains can
 deprive you of the vitamin folic acid, and
 eating too much meat provides you with too much
 methionine, and the combination of these two
 factors raises brain levels of homocysteine,
 that punches holes in arteries and causes
 plaques to form in them to cause ministrokes,
 which damages your brain.

Methionine is an essential protein building
 block that your body uses to make another
 nonessential building block called cysteine. If
 you lack any of the three vitamins: B12, folic
 acid or pyridoxine, methionine is converted to
 a poison called homocysteine that damages
 arteries and causes strokes, heart attacks and
 Alzheimer’s disease. Meat is one of the richest
 sources of methionine, and leafy greens and
 whole grains are full of folic acid that
 prevents methionine from being converted to
 homocysteine. Reducing your intake of meat and
 poultry lowers your intake of methionine. Folic
 acid is found everywhere in nature that you get
 carbohydrates, because folic acid helps your
 body convert carbohydrates to energy. You can
 help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease by getting
 folic acid from all whole grains and fortified
 cereals, leafy green vegetables, beans, seeds,
your intake of methionine by eating less meat.
 If homocysteine is above 100, take folic acid,
 pyridoxine and B12 (readily available in
 combination pills such as Foltex or Fol-B.) 

1)NEJM Feb 14, 2002.
2) JAMA February 14, 2001
Checked 8/9/05