Background: Plasma levels of homocyst(e)ine are elevated in certain patients with occlusive arterial diseases. We extended these findings to asymptomatic adults.
Methods and results: We determined plasma homocyst(e)ine levels in 287 pairs of asymptomatic adults. Cases and controls were defined on the basis of intimal-medial thickness of the carotid wall as measured by B-mode ultrasound. Study subjects had no history of atherosclerotic disease and were selected from a probability sample of 15,800 men and women between 45 and 64 years old. Subjects with thickened intimal-medial carotid walls (cases) had higher plasma homocyst(e)ine levels than controls (p < 0.001). The odds ratio for having a thickened carotid artery wall was 3.15 (p < 0.001) for subjects in the top quintile of plasma homocyst(e)ine levels (> 10.5 mumol/L) compared with those in the bottom quintile (< 5.88 mumol/L).
Conclusions: The present study as well as observations on the common occurrence of elevated plasma homocyst(e)ine levels in patients with occlusive arterial diseases suggest that clinical trials should be conducted to determine whether normalization of hyperhomocyst(e)inemia may prevent progression of atherosclerosis.