Many studies have confirmed that the B vitamins folate, B6 and B12 can help lower homocysteine levels. Lower homocysteine level is an indicator of better health, including the potential for better stress management.
Homocysteine is an amino acid which occurs in the body as an intermediate in the metabolism of methionine and cysteine. Because B vitamins, specifically folate, B6 and B12, are involved in the breakdown of homocysteine, blood level of homocysteine is an indicator of these B vitamin deficiencies. It can also be an indicator of methylation efficiency.
One way that low intracellular homocysteine concentrations are maintained is through methylation of homocysteine via receipt of a methyl group from 5-MTHF, which then forms methionine and tetrahydrofolate. This requires vitamin B12 for transferring the methyl group. Notably, methylation of homocysteine in the CNS can only occur with MTHF as the methyl donor. That’s why low levels of the B vitamins can lead to elevated levels of homocysteine. Conversely, supplementing with B vitamins can help balance homocysteine.
Preliminary research is showing that there is a correlation between stress and elevated serum homocysteine levels. A 2017 study published in Scientific Reports involving 649 children aged 6 to 13 demonstrated this connection. A 2017 review published in the Journal of Inborn Errors of Metabolism and Screening also makes the connection between homocysteine and mental health. A 2016 animal study published in the Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology also showed that inducing hyperhomocysteinemia increased stress-related behavior. Previous papers, including a 2016 review published in the journal Nutrients, make the direct connection between B vitamin supplementation, homocysteine and stress.
A 2014 paper published in Nutrition Journal that looked at occupational stress and B vitamin status concluded, “One mechanism by which B group vitamin intervention may aid the reduction of stress and fatigue ratings of those in full time employment is through the uninhibited clearance of homocysteine”
Research is demonstrating that B vitamin deficiency reduces the ability to cope with stress. The author of a 2016 review published in Nutrients reports that, “Just one of the many consequences of a deficiency in any of the B vitamins is a potential hampering of the natural breakdown and recycling of homocysteine, leading to its accumulation and a number of potential, negative cellular consequences.”
One key takeaway message from the emerging research connecting homocysteine and B vitamins is that reducing or preventing hyperhomocysteinemia has many varied health benefits, including the potential for better stress management. B vitamins, in particular B6, B12 and folate, may help patients who are having difficulty coping with stress and who also have elevated serum homocysteine levels. This is an economical recommendation with great outcome potential.
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7. Stough C, Scholey A, Lloyd J, et al. Human Psychopharmacology. 2011;7:470-6.
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