Homocysteine metabolism and risk of myocardial infarction: relation with vitamins B6, B12, and folate.


Verhoef P, Stampfer MJ, Buring JE




Am J Epidemiol


Elevated plasma homocyst(e)ine levels are an independent risk factor for vascular disease. In a case-control study, the authors studied the associations of fasting plasma homocyst(e)ine and vitamins, which are important cofactors in homocysteine metabolism, with the risk of myocardial infarction. The cases were 130 Boston area patients hospitalized with a first myocardial infarction and 118 population controls, less than 76 years of age, enrolled in 1982 and 1983. Dietary intakes of vitamins B6, B12, and folate were estimated from a food frequency questionnaire. After adjusting for sex and age, the authors found that the geometric mean plasma homocyst(e)ine level was 11% higher in cases compared with controls (p = 0.006). There was no clear excess of cases with extremely elevated levels. The age- and sex-adjusted odds ratio for each 3-mumol/liter (approximately 1 standard deviation) increase in plasma homocyst(e)ine was 1.35 (95% confidence interval 1.05-1.75; p trend = 0/007). After further control for several risk factors, the odds ratio was not affected, but the confidence interval was wider and the p value for trend was less significant. Dietary and plasma levels of vitamin B6 and folate were lower in cases than in controls, and these vitamins were inversely associated with the risk of myocardial infarction, independently of other potential risk factors. Vitamin B12 showed no clear association with myocardial infarction, although methylmalonic acid levels were significantly higher in cases. Comparing the mean levels of several homocysteine metabolites among cases and controls, the authors found that impairment of remethylation of homocyst(e)ine (dependent of folate and vitamin B12 rather than on vitamin B6- dependent transsulfuration) was the predominant cause of high homocyst(e)ine levels in cases. Accordingly, plasma folate and, to a lesser extent, plasma vitamin B12, but not vitamin B6, correlated inversely with plasma homocyst(e)ine, even for concentrations at the high end of normal values. These data provide further evidence that plasma homocyst(e)ine is an independent risk factor for myocardial infarction. In this population, folate was the most important determinant of plasma homocyst(e)ine, even in subjects with apparently adequate nutritional status of this vitamin.