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Open Access Review

Homocysteine and reactive oxygen species in metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and atheroscleropathy: The pleiotropic effects of folate supplementation

Melvin R Hayden1* and Suresh C Tyagi2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Family and Community Medicine University of Missouri Columbia, Missouri PO BOX 1140 Lk. Rd. 5-87 Camdenton, Missouri 65020 USA

2 Department of Physiology and Biophysics 500 South Preston Street University of Louisville Louisville, Kentucky 40292 USA

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Nutrition Journal 2004, 3:4  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-3-4

Published: 10 May 2004

Abstract

Homocysteine has emerged as a novel independent marker of risk for the development of cardiovascular disease over the past three decades. Additionally, there is a graded mortality risk associated with an elevated fasting plasma total homocysteine (tHcy). Metabolic syndrome (MS) and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) are now considered to be a strong coronary heart disease (CHD) risk enhancer and a CHD risk equivalent respectively. Hyperhomocysteinemia (HHcy) in patients with MS and T2DM would be expected to share a similar prevalence to the general population of five to seven percent and of even greater importance is: Declining glomerular filtration and overt diabetic nephropathy is a major determinant of tHcy elevation in MS and T2DM.

There are multiple metabolic toxicities resulting in an excess of reactive oxygen species associated with MS, T2DM, and the accelerated atherosclerosis (atheroscleropathy). HHcy is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and its individual role and how it interacts with the other multiple toxicities are presented.

The water-soluble B vitamins (especially folate and cobalamin-vitamin B12) have been shown to lower HHcy. The absence of the cystathionine beta synthase enzyme in human vascular cells contributes to the importance of a dual role of folic acid in lowering tHcy through remethylation, as well as, its action of being an electron and hydrogen donor to the essential cofactor tetrahydrobiopterin. This folate shuttle facilitates the important recoupling of the uncoupled endothelial nitric oxide synthase enzyme reaction and may restore the synthesis of the omnipotent endothelial nitric oxide to the vasculature.

Keywords:
Atherosclerosis; BH4; eNOS; eNO; Folate Shuttle; Folic acid; Nitric Oxide; Nitric Oxide Synthase; Oxidative stress