A high concentration in the blood of homocysteine (Hcy), a sulfur-containing amino acid, predicts an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease. This makes it another 'risk factor' for coronary heart disease. And it is certainly a much more reliable indicator than is cholesterol.

A high level of blood homocysteine was once considered to be a marker of potential cardiovascular (risk factor for heart attack and stroke) disease. Today, the correlation between homocysteine and cardiac disease is unclear.[1]

In 2007 a Norwegian study attemped to show that high intakes of saturated fatty acids were associated with high levels of homocysteine in the blood.[2] And this was a conclusion of the study.

BUT that's not what their data showed. The study's Table 2 showed no consistent relationships between the food quintiles and homocysteine. Among all of the foods they evaluated, there was an average difference in homocysteine between the highest and lowest quintiles of a mere 0.33 umol/L (ranging from 0 to 0.5). In contrast, just the difference between ages — 40 year olds and 70 year olds — was ten times as great! (The average was 3.0. )

What the study appeared to show was either that food makes no difference, or they weren't able to show it with significant enough correlations in this epidemiological data dredge. The specific foods they selected could also easily be markers for any number of other confounders.

Their Table 3 also found equally tiny, untenable differences between quintiles of any fatty acid, and a far more notable difference simply by age.

However, homocysteine is certainly a better indicator of heart disease than is cholesterol. And what does influence homocysteine levels more than anything else is vitamin B in the diet: The more vitamin B, the lower homocysteine levels are.

And the best supplier of the B vitamins is meat!


1. B vitamins do not protect hearts. BBC News, BBC, 6 September 2005.
2. Berstad P, Konstantinova SV, Refsum H, et al. Dietary fat and plasma total homocysteine concentrations in 2 adult age groups: the Hordaland Homocysteine Study. Am J Clin Nutr 2007; 85: 1598-1605.

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Last updated: December 9, 2011