Practical Issues > Health - Index > Vegan - Index
Influence of Folate, B-12, and Homocysteine in Seniors

Influence of Folate, B-12, and Homocysteine in Seniors

"As long as the world is turning and spinning, we're gonna be dizzy and we're gonna make mistakes." - Mel Brooks

The December issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition contains a study in which levels of vitamin B-12, folate, and homocysteine were tested in the blood of 796 geriatric adults by scientists at Melbourne Hospital's Department of Medicine in Australia, and the Department of Geriatric Medicine at Alexandra Hospital in Singapore.

Researchers attempted to link levels of B-12, folate, and homocysteine with gait and balance of senior citizens residing in assisted-living communities.

Scientists found no significant associations with balance resulting from high or low levels of B-12 or folate, but included this comment regarding homocysteine in their abstract:

"...we showed that homocysteine, independently of folate and vitamin B-12, showed significant negative associations with balance and gait scores."

In other words, as you age, stay on your feet by keeping homocysteine levels low.

Where does one get homocysteine from?

There are 28 amino acids in nature. The human body can manufacture 19 of them. The other nine are called "essential." We must get them from the foods we eat.

One of those "essential" aminos is methionine. A second is cysteine.

One needs methionine and cysteine for numerous metabolic functions including digestion, muscle metabolism, and detoxification of heavy metals. However, an excess of methionine and cysteine can be toxic.

Methionine and cysteine differ from all other amino acids in that they have as their center atom sulfur. That's the problem. Eat foods containing too much methionine and cysteine, and your blood will become acidic. The sulfur converts to sulfates and weak forms of sulfuric acid. In order to neutralize the acid, and the body leaches calcium from bones.

Animal proteins contain more methionine and cysteine than plant proteins. For example, let's compare the amounts of methionine in 100 gram (3.5 ounces) portions of tofu, Swiss Cheese, and roast chicken:

Tofu: 0.74 grams Cheese: .784 grams Chicken: .801 grams

In 1988, N.A. Breslau and colleagues identified the relationship between protein-rich diets and calcium metabolism, noting that protein consumption caused calcium loss. His work was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology (1988;66:140-6).

A 1994 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Remer T, Am J Clin Nutr 1994;59:1356-61) determined that the consumption of animal proteins caused calcium to be leached from bones and excreted in the urine.

Today, science provides the evidence that animal protein consumption may be a key contributing factor to dizziness and falling exhibited by the elderly.

Robert Cohen

Fair Use Notice and Disclaimer
Send questions or comments about this web site to Ann Berlin,