Background: It is unclear whether homocysteine itself is causal in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease. Alternatively or additionally, the association between homocysteine and cardiovascular disease may be because of its metabolic precursor, S-adenosylhomocysteine, or of the ratio of S-adenosylmethionine to S-adenosylhomocysteine. Therefore, it is relevant to know how these moieties are interrelated, and whether, as is the case for homocysteine, they are influenced by blood levels of folate, cobalamin or vitamin B6.
Design: We cross-sectionally studied a population-based cohort of 97 Caucasian subjects aged 60-85 years. Concentrations of homocysteine, S-adenosylhomocysteine, S-adenosylmethionine, folate, cobalamin and vitamin B6 were measured in fasting blood samples.
Results: In multiple regression analysis, homocysteine was associated with vitamin B12 (per 50 pmol L-1 increase of cobalamin, change in homocysteine, -0.70 mmol L-1; 95% CI, -1.30 to -0.10 mmol L-1) and folate (per 100 nmol L-1 increase in erythrocyte folate, change in homocysteine, -0.68 mmol L-1; 95% CI -1.28 to -0.08 mmol L-1). S-adenosylhomocysteine, S-adenosylmethionine and the ratio of S-adenosylmethionine to S-adenosylhomocysteine were not associated with serum folate, cobalamin or vitamin B6, nor with erythrocyte folate. Furthermore, plasma homocysteine showed a negative correlation with the ratio of S-adenosylmethionine to S-adenosylhomocysteine in plasma (r = -0.27; P < 0.01) but not in erythrocytes.
Conclusions: In contrast to homocysteine, the plasma concentrations of S-adenosylhomocysteine and the ratio of S-adenosylmethionine to S-adenosylhomocysteine were not associated with the folate, cobalamin and vitamin B6 concentrations in the present study. If these precursors in part explain why homocysteine is associated with cardiovascular disease, homocysteine-lowering treatment with B vitamins may be less effective than currently expected, at least in an elderly population.