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Homocysteine or The H Factor

Has been called the medical breakthrough of the 21st century
Best single indicator of whether you are going to live a long and healthy life, or die young – but can be changed
A greater risk factor for heart attacks and strokes than cholesterol
Associated with increased risk of over 100 diseases/medical conditions
Easy to correct through the right diet and supplements

  Questions and answers
Why all this excitement about homocysteine?

One in two people dies of preventable diseases, and one in two people has a high homocysteine level or H score.  Exhaustive research studies have confirmed a strong link between disease risk and H score, providing a major opportunity to cut mortality rates and suffering.
What exactly is homocysteine?

Homocysteine is a chemical found in the blood which is made from protein, specifically the amino acid methionine.  In good health, it is normally broken down and converted into either the protective anti-oxidant glutathione or a chemical called SAMe.
What happens if it is not broken down properly?

It increases risk of disease in 3 ways:
  • It accumulates in the blood, causing cholesterol to change into a dangerous form which can severely damage artery walls and start the heart disease process.
  • It reduces levels of the vital anti-oxidant glutathione, which is the body’s strongest anti-ageing nutrient and detoxifying agent.
  • By reducing levels of SAMe, it dramatically reduces the process of methylation, which is the main way in which most biochemical reactions in the body happen.  Methylation should normally take place 1 billion times per second.  Without adequate methylation, normal protective bodily processes are less effective, and our DNA cannot repair itself, leading to increased risk of cancer, heart disease, arthritis, auto-immune diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, etc.  SAMe is also in itself a very powerful anti-oxidant, anti-depressant and painkiller.

What causes homocysteine to accumulate unhealthily?

Basically, a low intake of certain essential nutrients: B2, B6, B12, Folic Acid, zinc and TMG.   Diets nowadays are often very low in B vitamins and zinc, due to food processing and low intake of wholegrains, green leafy vegetables, etc.  B vitamins are also depleted by stress and alcohol consumption.  In addition, people with poor digestion may not absorb their nutrients properly.

What is a healthy H score?

Below 6

Superhealthy, with minimal risk

6 to 8.9

Better than average health, with some level of risk: could improve!

9 to 12

Average poor health, with moderate, but significant risk of premature death

12 to 15

Worse than average poor health, with real risk of premature death

15 to 20

Very high risk, with more than 50% chance of heart attack, stroke, cancer or Alzheimer’s in the next 10 to 30 years

Over 20

Extremely significant risk of five major killer diseases or any of the 100 homocysteine-related diseases


If the score is high, can anything be done about it?

Yes!  According to your score, if you improve your diet and also take the right level of the essential nutrients, you can reduce your H score and your disease risk in as little as 2 months.


How does the test work?

You receive a kit which includes a device for taking a pin-prick blood sample at home. You then send it off to the lab in the box provided and await the results, which should be with you within 2 weeks (depending on volume).  The cost is £75.


What if the score is 6 or above?

You are recommended to consult a fully qualified nutritionist, who will help you to adjust your diet and recommend appropriate supplements to reduce your H level.  A retest would be recommended after a number of months.


What other conditions have been associated with high homocysteine apart from heart attacks, strokes, cancer and Alzheimer’s?

Angina, arthritis, chronic fatigue, coeliac disease, dementia, diabetes, severe depression, Down’s syndrome, epilepsy, fibromyalgia, heart attacks, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, coeliac disease), inflammatory conditions such as eczema, asthma or arthritis, kidney problems, low thyroid, lupus, menopausal problems, migraines, oestrogen deficiency, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s disease, polycystic ovarian syndrome, pregnancy problems (including repeated miscarriages), schizophrenia, stomach ulcers, strokes and ulcerative colitis. 


What are the most common risk factors for high homocysteine?

Having experienced any of the above, or the following:


Male over 40


Eat red meat every day

B. Postmenopausal B. Frequently put salt on food
C. Regular or excessive alcohol consumer C. Rarely take supplements, or low levels
D. Smoker D. Often aggressive or angry
E. Rare exerciser E. Relatively high-fat diet
F. Reliant on stimulant drinks (tea/coffee) F. On anti-epilepsy medication

Vegan or strict vegetarian

G. Have lost weight through calorie restriction

 What role do genes play in all this?

An estimated 10 to 15 per cent of the population have a genetic defect which means that they need much more of the essential nutrients involved to keep their homocysteine levels down.  There is also a very rare children’s disease associated with poor breakdown of homocysteine.

12 How can I find out more?
A nutrition consultation with Sally Whitman can help you assess whether it is likely that a homocysteine test would be useful for you. 




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Sally Whitman of Blackberry Nutrition experienced nutrition consultant and nutritional therapist with a very busy clinic in Cheltenham, near Gloucester, Gloucestershire