B-vitamin levels and genetics of hyperhomocysteinemia are not associated with arterial stiffness

S C van Dijk, A W Enneman, J van Meurs, K M A Swart, A H Ham, J P van Wijngaarden, E M Brouwer-Brolsma, N L van der Zwaluw, N M van Schoor, R A M Dhonukshe-Rutten, L C P G M de Groot, P Lips, A G Uitterlinden, H Blom, J M Geleijnse, E Feskens, R T de Jongh, Y M Smulders, A H van den Meiracker, F U S Mattace-Raso, N van der Velde
Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases: NMCD 2014, 24 (7): 760-6

BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Hyperhomocysteinemia is associated with arterial stiffness, but underlying pathophysiological mechanisms explaining this association are to be revealed. This study was aimed to explore two potential pathways concerning the one-carbon metabolism. A potential causal effect of homocysteine was explored using a genetic risk score reflecting an individual's risk of having a long-term elevated plasma homocysteine level and also associations with B-vitamin levels were investigated.

METHODS AND RESULTS: Baseline cross-sectional data of the B-PROOF study were used. In the cardiovascular subgroup (n = 567, 56% male, age 72.6 ± 5.6 yrs) pulse wave velocity (PWV) was determined using applanation tonometry. Plasma concentrations of vitamin B12, folate, methylmalonic acid (MMA) and holo transcobalamin (holoTC) were assessed and the genetic risk score was based on 13 SNPs being associated with elevated plasma homocysteine. Associations were examined using multivariable linear regression analysis. B-vitamin levels were not associated with PWV. The genetic risk score was also not associated with PWV. However, the homocysteine-gene interaction was significant (p < 0.001) in the association of the genetic risk score and PWV. Participants with the lowest genetic risk of having long-term elevated homocysteine levels, but with higher measured homocysteine levels, had the highest PWV levels.

CONCLUSION: Homocysteine is unlikely to be causally related to arterial stiffness, because there was no association with genetic variants causing hyperhomocysteinemia, whereas non-genetically determined hyperhomocysteinemia was associated with arterial stiffness. Moreover, the association between homocysteine and arterial stiffness was not mediated by B-vitamins. Possibly, high plasma homocysteine levels reflect an unidentified factor, that causes increased arterial stiffness.

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