Effect of vegetarian diet on homocysteine levels

Ann Nutr Metab. 2002;46(2):73-9. doi: 10.1159/000057644.

Abstract

Objective: To compare fasting total plasma homocysteine (tHcy) levels in vegans, lacto-ovovegetarians and control subjects, and to evaluate the relationships between tHcy levels and nutritional variables in vegetarians.

Methods: The study was conducted on 45 vegetarian subjects: 31 vegans (19 males, 12 females, mean age 45.8 +/- 15.8 years); 14 lacto-ovovegetarians (6 males, 8 females, mean age 48.5 +/- 14.5 years), and 29 control subjects (19 males, 10 females, mean age 43.4 +/- 16.7 years). tHcy was evaluated by high-performance liquid chromatography. Serum vitamin B(12) and folate were analyzed by automated chemiluminescence systems. Clinical records, nutritional and anthropometric variables were collected for all vegetarian subjects.

Results: tHcy was significantly higher in vegetarian subjects than in controls (23.9 +/- 21.3 vs. 11.6 +/- 4.9 micromol/l, p < 0.001). The prevalence of hyperhomocysteinemia was higher in vegetarians than in controls (53.3 vs. 10.3%, p < 0.001). Serum vitamin B(12) levels were lower in vegetarians than in control subjects (171.2 +/- 73.6 vs. 265.0 +/- 52.2 pmol/l, p < 0.01; normal range 220-740 pmol/l). In vegetarian subjects, significant inverse correlations were found between tHcy and serum vitamin B(12) levels (r = -0.776, p < 0.001) and between tHcy and serum folate levels (r = -0.340, p < 0.05). Positive correlations were found between tHcy and mean red cell volume (r = 0.44, p < 0.01) and between tHcy and fat-free mass (r = 0.36, p < 0.05).

Conclusion: Vegetarian subjects presented significantly higher tHcy levels, higher prevalence of hyperhomocysteinemia, and lower serum vitamin B(12) levels than controls.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Diet, Vegetarian / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Folic Acid / blood
  • Homocysteine / blood*
  • Humans
  • Hyperhomocysteinemia / blood
  • Hyperhomocysteinemia / epidemiology*
  • Luminescent Measurements
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Vitamin B 12 / blood

Substances

  • Homocysteine
  • Folic Acid
  • Vitamin B 12