A recent study from multiple medical centers shows that a regular exercise program helps to lower high blood levels of homocysteine. (European Journal of Applied Physiology, November 2006). Everyone agrees that high blood levels of homocysteine increase your risk for heart attacks, but at this time, nobody knows why. More than 200 papers show high blood levels of homocysteine are associated with increased risk for heart attacks, strokes and dementia. However, three recent studies show that lowering blood levels of homocysteine does not prevent these conditions. This has disturbed many researchers because they cannot explain how lowering a risk factor for a disease does not help to prevent that disease.
It may be that homocysteine does not cause heart attacks, strokes or dementia, but is just a marker associated with them. For example, homocysteine comes from methionine, an essential amino acid found primarily in meat. Meat is also a rich source of saturated fats which are known to increase risk for heart attacks and strokes in people who ingest too many calories. So, lowering homocysteine does not prevent heart attacks, strokes and dementia because homocysteine does not cause these conditions. However, lowering saturated fats does help prevent heart attacks and strokes.
Saturated fats are harmful to a person when he gets too many calories. Dietary saturated fats go to the liver where they are broken down to 2-carbon units. If the body has enough calories, the liver uses these 2-carbon units to make cholesterol. On the other hand, if the liver does not get enough calories, the 2-carbon units are burned for energy to carbon dioxide and water and never form cholesterol. Exercise helps to burn calories. So exercise uses up calories that would other wise have been used to manufacture cholesterol. Stay tuned; the issue is not settled.
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Dr. Gabe Mirkin has been a radio talk show host for 25 years and practicing physician for more than 40 years; he is board certified in four specialties, including sports medicine. Read or listen to hundreds of his fitness and health reports - and the FREE Good Food Book - at http://www.DrMirkin.com