Like many of the chemical substances that work inside your body to build and maintain its cells and systems—homocysteine is a metabolite. It starts as one thing and ends as another. Or at least it should.
Homocysteine for protein processing
Methionine is one of 11 essential amino acids the body requires from dietary sources such as meat, fish, beans, nuts, seeds and eggs. Methionine is converted to other biological compounds such as ethanolamine, homocysteine, cysteine, carnitine, taurine and lecithin.
Homocysteine is released as the body digests dietary protein. Its normal role in the body is to control growth and support bone and tissue formation. But its existence in the blood stream is meant to be short lived. With the help of folic acid and vitamin B12, homocysteine reverts back to methionine and a harmless amino acid called cysteine.
When it lingers in the bloodstream, homocysteine (which contains sulfur) can have dangerous effects by promoting too much growth of smooth muscle cells in artery linings. This vascular growth can partially or completely obstruct blood vessels and narrow arteries.
Too much homocysteine can also damage cells lining the arteries, stripping away areas of the blood vessel walls. The injured areas are filled with low-density lipoprotein cholesterol—and other fatty substances that clog the arteries.
Diet, genetics, lifestyle and some medications can affect the way your body metabolizes protein—and the dangerous elevation of homocysteine in your blood stream.
A homocysteine blood test is a good indicator of your risk for heart disease or stroke. If your homocysteine level is less than 12 mol per L (micromoles per liter), you are in the normal range. If your homocysteine is between 12 to 15 mol per L, you should consult your doctor.