April 18, 2013

Homocysteine and the Brain - The Role of Oxidative Stress

Homocysteine and Inflammation in the Brain

In earlier Blogs we looked at the story behind homocysteine, memory loss and dementia.  We also described the many ways in which homocysteine is harmful for your brain.

Homocysteine is also linked to other degenerative brain diseases, including Stroke, Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis.

Scientists now think that a common factor behind these associations is chronic inflammation in the brain.

How Can Chronic Inflammation Affect Homocysteine?

Inflammation produces harmful free radicals and ‘oxidative stress.’  B-vitamins and enzymes that turn homocysteine into helpful compounds are very sensitive to oxidative stress.

The net result is that your homocysteine levels rise, and B vitamins become depleted.

Your Brain, On Fire!

One way of thinking about this is to imagine coming home to find that your kitchen is full of smoke.  You turn on the extractor fan to remove the smoke.  This will help of course, but what you should really do is reach for the fire extinguisher!

In this analogy, the smoke represents homocysteine; the fire is chronic inflammation in the brain.  B vitamins act as an extractor fan.  But extinguishing the fire itself requires a powerful antioxidant.

Extinguishing the Fire - Your Most Powerful Antioxidant:

Your body’s most powerful antioxidant is called Glutathione.  But taking Glutathione supplements will not work. It is broken down in your gut and not well absorbed.

But Glutathione levels can be increased by taking N-acetylcysteine (NAC).  When NAC is given alongside vitamins B12, B6 and folic acid it markedly improves symptoms in patients with raised homocysteine and memory problems.


In our next Blog we will look more closely at Glutathione, NAC and oxidative stress.

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