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Undetected Damage from High Protein Diets

Type 2 Diabetics with elevated Homocysteine are almost two times more likely to die within 5 years than non diabetic patients.

As the popularity of high protein diets like Atkins and South Beach grows, so does the probability that the people on them will be at risk for something greater than weight loss. Medical researchers have identified an emerging health risk factor that is currently not on the radar of the general public—Homocysteine. Homocysteine is a destructive amino acid created by the body as it breaks down protein. Too much Homocysteine is directly linked to a higher risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease.

High protein diets create elevated levels of Homocysteine in the blood, increasing the risk for a multitude of health problems including Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and depression. What causes elevated Homocysteine levels? Insufficient amounts folic acid, B6 and B12 can hamper the natural breakdown of Homocysteine.

Elevated Homocysteine (hyperhomocysteinemia) causes narrowing and hardening of the arteries, leading to diminished blood flow. Hyperhomocysteinemia also increases the tendency of excessive blood clotting, further diminishing blood flow. The resultant lack of blood supply to the heart causes heart attacks, and lack of blood supply to the brain causes strokes.

Because people with Type 2 Diabetes are two to four times more likely to suffer from heart disease than non diabetics, it is vital for them to be aware of the risks from hyperhomocysteinemia. A recent study found that Type 2 Diabetics with elevated Homocysteine are almost two times more likely to die within 5 years than non diabetic patients.

Homocysteine levels can be lowered with the consumption of folic acid supplements or cereals that are fortified with folic acid, and to a lesser extent vitamins B6 and B12, can lower blood.

There is no consensus as to the optimal dose of folic acid and B vitamins to treat elevated Homocysteine. Patients with hyperhomocysteinemia may require higher doses of folic acid and B vitamins than are available in a multivitamin. Therefore, a decision regarding testing should be individualized after consulting with a doctor. Ann Intern Med. 2004 Jan 20;140(2):I31.

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