Homocysteine is an amino acid produced in the body and is produced from another amino acid called "methionine." A continuous cycle (methylation cycle) occurs in the body in which homocysteine and methionine are converted into each other.  High homocysteine levels are determined to be a risk factor for chronic diseases. It is desirable for the level of homocysteine in the body to be less than 10 mcmol/L. 

Studies have shown that there is a correlation between hyperhomocysteinemia (the finding an elevated concentration of homocysteine in the blood) and mental retardation, accelerated growth, osteoporosis (a disease characterized by deterioration of bone quantity and quality), venous and arterial thrombosis (characterized by obstruction of a vein or artery). In addition, an elevated plasma concentration of homocysteine could also cause atherosclerosis.

Among the main causes of hyperhomocysteinemia are:
1) Genetic predisposition to high homocysteine levels (MTHFR gene mutation);
2) Diet lacking or deficient in B vitamins, especially B12, folic acid, and B6; and
3) Smoking
4) Stress
5) Sedentary lifestyle

Diagnosis is verified by performing a simple blood test to measure how much is present in the blood. This can also detect if you have a vitamin deficiency or identify the cause of unexplained blood clots.

Once diagnosed, you may need to change your diet to lower homocysteine levels. If you have a vitamin deficiency, you can increase your simultaneous intake of vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid and/or by eating folate-rich foods such as vegetables, orange juice and beans.

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