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Healthy Heart Reports

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 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.

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.


Copyright 2000
Dr. Mirkin's opinions and the references cited are for information only, and are not intended to diagnose or prescribe. For your specific diagnosis and treatment, consult your doctor or health care provider.

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