Prospective study of coronary heart disease incidence in relation to fasting total homocysteine, related genetic polymorphisms, and B vitamins: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study

Circulation. 1998 Jul 21;98(3):204-10. doi: 10.1161/01.cir.98.3.204.


Background: Elevated plasma total homocysteine (tHcy), low B-vitamin intake, and genetic polymorphisms related to tHcy metabolism may play roles in coronary heart disease (CHD). More prospective studies are needed.

Methods and results: We used a prospective case-cohort design to determine whether tHcy-related factors are associated with incidence of CHD over an average of 3.3 years of follow-up in a biracial sample of middle-aged men and women. Age-, race-, and field center-adjusted CHD incidence was associated positively (P<0.05) with tHcy in women but not men, and CHD was associated negatively (P<0.05) with plasma folate (women only), plasma pyridoxal 5'-phosphate (both sexes), and vitamin supplementation (women only). However, after accounting for other risk factors, only plasma pyridoxal 5'-phosphate was associated with CHD incidence; the relative risk for the highest versus lowest quintile of pyridoxal 5'-phosphate was 0.28 (95% CI=0.1 to 0.7). There was no association of CHD with the C677T mutation of the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase gene or with 3 mutations of the cystathionine beta-synthase gene.

Conclusions: Our prospective findings add uncertainty to conclusions derived mostly from cross-sectional studies that tHcy is a major, independent, causative risk factor for CHD. Our findings point more strongly to the possibility that vitamin B6 offers independent protection. Randomized trials, some of which are under way, are needed to better clarify the interrelationships of tHcy, B vitamins, and cardiovascular disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Arteriosclerosis / etiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Coronary Disease / epidemiology*
  • Coronary Disease / genetics
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Fasting
  • Female
  • Folic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Folic Acid / blood*
  • Homocysteine / blood*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymorphism, Genetic / genetics*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pyridoxal Phosphate / blood
  • Risk Factors
  • Vitamin B 12 / administration & dosage
  • Vitamin B 12 / blood*


  • Homocysteine
  • Pyridoxal Phosphate
  • Folic Acid
  • Vitamin B 12