I’m a chemistry geek — I love studying biochemical pathways and finding ways to help improve their performance, which helps the body function optimally. In fact, I think all healthcare practitioners should be finding and using substances that support (or even enhance) biochemistry, and avoiding those that block or even poison it.
Nearly all drug therapies work by poisoning enzymes and blocking receptors, thereby disrupting our biochemistry. Homocysteine is a sulfur-containing amino acid that is an intermediate substance in the methylation pathway. Methylation simply refers to adding a molecule of methyl — made up of one carbon atom plus three hydrogen atoms, or CH3 — to various substances.
For instance, when the methylation pathway is working well, folic acid can be converted to methyl folic acid, which helps prevent strokes, heart attacks, and blood clots. The enzyme methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) converts folic acid into 5-methyltetrahydrofolate, which is required to convert homocysteine into methionine. This reaction is catalyzed by vitamin B12.
Methionine helps the body produce fatty acids for cell membranes. A genetic defect in the MTHFR enzyme can cause a problem converting folic acid into 5-methyltetrahyrdrofolate. That can lead to an elevated homocysteine level because 5-methyl-tetrahyrdrofolate is necessary for converting homocysteine into methionine.
Unfortunately, MTHFR defects are very common.
There is another important pathway for homocysteine metabolism: the transulfuration pathway, which depends on an adequate intake of sulfur in the diet. In this pathway, homocysteine can be converted into glutathione — the strongest antioxidant in the body.
Sulfur is found in eggs, meats, legumes, and nuts. It is also found in some vegetables such as garlic and onions. But most fruits and vegetables do not contain much sulfur.
It is important to eat a diet that contains adequate sulfur for the proper metabolism of homocysteine.
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