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HOMOCYSTEINE IN VEGETARIANS

A study from the Slovak Republic shows that vegetarians have higher levels of homocysteine than those who also eat meat. High blood levels of homocysteine can cause heart attacks.

Homocysteine is broken down by three vitamins called folic acid, B12 and pyridoxine. While plants are rich sources of folic acid and pyridoxine, they contain no B12. Vegetarians who eat no meat, chicken, fish, diary or eggs are at high risk for B12 deficiency and elevated homocysteine levels.

Being a vegetarian can cause heart attacks in susceptible people and complete vegans who eat no fish, diary products or eggs need to take B12 pills. Since a vegetarian diet is low in methionine, an amino acid that lowers B12 requirements, complete vegans need B12 doses that are higher than the recommended dietary allowance of two micrograms per day. If homocysteine levels remain above 100, take folic acid, pyridoxine and B12 (readily available in combination pills such as Foltex or Fol-B.)

May-June 2000 Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism.
Below-normal levels of vitamin B12 were found in none of the omnivores, 26 percent of the vegetarians and 78 percent of the vegans. Elevated homocysteine was found in 29 percent of the vegetarians compared with only 5 percent of the omnivores. Even though a vegetarian diet can lower serum cholesterol, the opposite effect on homocysteine could offset the potential benefit.

Checked 8/31/05

May 21st, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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