Background: Bioscientists, physicians and nutritionists are newly interested in the homocysteine-folate-cobalamin triad, in part because homocysteine may be important both in atherogenesis and thrombogenesis. Homocysteine imbalance may be an early marker for cobalamin disorders because cobalamin is a cofactor in remethylation of homocysteine to methionine.
Methods: In 139 men and 32 women of similar mean age of 65 years, we measured markers which have been cited as risk for atherosclerosis: serum homocysteine, folate, total cobalamin, holotranscobalamin I and II, (TCI and TCII), total serum cholesterol (SCHOL), high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDLC), triglycerides (STG) as well as red blood cell (RBC) folate, food records and body composition by whole body counting of potassium-forty (40K).
Results: Statistical relationships among the data showed healthy women had lower mean serum homocysteine and their mean RBC folate and TCI and TCII were higher than men. Eighty-three subjects had TCII much lower than 60 pg/ml (subnormal), yet only 11 of these men and two women had total cobalamin < 200 pg/ml (abnormal). Fifty-two subjects with serum homocysteine greater than 17.5 nmol/ml had TCII less than 60 pg/ml, suggesting serum homocysteine may be a marker for early cobalamin negative balance. None of the subjects in the study had serum folate below abnormal values, i.e., less than 1.6 mg/ml. All subjects had RBC folate within normal range. Serum homocysteine showed inverse relationship with RBC folate and serum total cobalamin, TCI and TCII.
Conclusions: 1) importance of using serum holotranscobalamin TCI and TCII as markers of cobalamin deficiency, 2) necessity to use documented quantitative components of dietary intake if strong comparisons are to be made among quantitative values of serum or plasma homocysteine, folate, cobalamin, and nutrients in food intake.