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Homocysteine levels in vegetarians versus omnivores

M Krajcovicová-Kudlácková, P Blazícek, J Kopcová, A Béderová, K Babinská
Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism 2000, 44 (3): 135-8
11053901
Vitamin B(12), folate, and vitamin B(6) are the main determinants of homocysteinemia. The vegan diet provides no vitamin B(12), but also less strict forms of alternative nutrition may suffer from a deficit of this vitamin. The plasma homocysteine level was measured in alternative nutrition groups of adults (lacto- and lactoovovegetarians, n = 62; vegans, n = 32) and compared with the levels in a group consuming traditional diet (n = 59), omnivores). In the group of vegetarians the average homocysteine level is 13.18 vs. 10.19 micromol/l in omnivores; the frequency of hyperhomocysteinemia is 29 vs. 5% in omnivores. In the group of vegans the average homocysteine value is 15.79 micromol/l (53% of the individual values exceeded 15 micromol/l). Omnivores consume the recommended amount of methionine; however, in individuals consuming an alternative diet, the intake of methionine is deficient (assessed by food frequency questionnaire; lower content of methionine in plant proteins). Under conditions of lower methionine availability the remethylation pathway prevails; therefore, vitamin B(12) and folate were evaluated in relation to the homocysteine level. The serum vitamin B(12) levels are significantly lower in the alternative nutrition groups (214.8 pmol/l in vegetarians, 140.1 pmol/l in vegans vs. 344.7 pmol/l in omnivores); a deficit (<179.0 pmol/l) was found in 26% of the vegetarians and in 78% of the vegans vs. 0% in omnivores. The serum folate levels were within the range of reference values in all groups; however, they were significantly lower in omnivores. The results show that the mild hyperhomocysteinemia in alternative nutrition is a consequence of vitamin B(12) deficiency.

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