Methionine and homocysteine levels.




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There are many risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Three that cannot be changed are older age, male gender, and a family history of CVD. Additionally, three other major risk factors include cigarette smoking, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Other identified factors associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease include lack of exercise, diabetes, obesity, too much alcohol, increased homocysteine levels, certain infections and inflammation, estrogens, androgens, and certain psychosocial factors. The combination of multiple risk factors must also be considered.

Methionine, along with protein, has been thought to raise homocysteine levels, which are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Methionine is an essential amino acid that is crucial for a variety of chemical interactions in the body. Functions that rid the body of toxins provide for absorption of nutrients and stimulate immune response all depend in part on methionine. Sources of methionine include sunflower seeds, beef, eggs, cottage cheese, chicken, fish, pork, liver, sardines, yogurt, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and lentils.

A recent study investigated the possible link between methionine and protein intake and elevated homocysteine levels in overweight individuals. For 6 months overweight subjects were randomly assigned to one of three diets: a high protein, high methionine diet, a low protein, low methionine diet, or a control diet with an average amount of protein. Adherence to these diets was evaluated through urine tests. Homocysteine levels did not change in the low protein/methionine group, while in the high protein/methionine group the levels were 25% lower. The authors stated that when compared with the low protein/methionine diet, the high protein, high methionine diet does not raise homocysteine levels in overweight individuals.1


1. Haulrik N, et al. Effect of protein and methionine intakes on plasma homocysteine concentrations: a 6-mo randomized controlled trial in overweight subjects. Am J Clin Nutr. Dec 2002; 76(6):1202-6.