By Valerie Robitaille
High cholesterol has been the focus of the medical community as the cause of heart attacks and strokes. However, the nutrition community sees things a little differently.
Medications such as statin drugs to lower cholesterol have made the drug companies enormous profits; anyone who uses them can attest to their high cost. But high cholesterol is only part of the problem.
The facts are as follows: more than 60% of all heart attacks occur in people with normal cholesterol, the majority of people with high cholesterol never suffer heart attacks, and half of all heart attack victims have none of the standard risk factors, i.e., smoking, obesity, genetics, or high cholesterol.
Let me introduce you to homocysteine – an amino “acid” that is formed during the breakdown of dietary protein. Normally benign, homocysteine becomes a problem when there are not enough of the B vitamins present to help homocysteine continue its metabolic pathway, and it accumulates. The effect of this is seen on the delicate tissue of the artery walls – they literally become “burned,” which the body interprets as damage, and sends inflammatory products to the site, including plaque and blood, in an effort to heal the wound. This makes the arteries narrow and inelastic.
High homocysteine levels increase a person’s risk of heart attack by 300%. That’s pretty substantial. Cardiac profiles report high homocysteine levels in approximately half of the patients with heart issues, before and after a heart attack. And a large percentage have normal cholesterol! If this condition can be improved by appropriate dosing of specific B vitamins why hasn’t this information been shouted across America’s nightly news? I’ll let you come to your own conclusions but will tell you that there’s not much profit in a B vitamin, or a good diet for that matter.
One significant study published by The New England Journal of Medicine concluded that “supplements combining folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12 did not reduce the risk of major cardiovascular events in patients with vascular disease.“ However, the study had some basic flaws, particularly that the dosage given wasn’t high enough. There is adequate evidence that controlling homocysteine levels through proper supplementation will reduce cardiovascular events, increase longevity and improve overall health. Older women especially need supplementation since the risk for heart attacks increases after menopause, possibly due to the reduced ability for some to process homocysteine. Also, HRT and oral contraceptives deplete B vitamins in the body.
Hardening of the arteries, particularly the coronary arteries, is not the only condition that may be attributed to high levels of homocysteine. Credible nutritional research points to other conditions related to elevated homocysteine, including peripheral vascular disease
and other conditions associated with blood clotting, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, depression, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, type II diabetes, erectile dysfunction, renal failure and a high risk for hypertension.