Relationship between plasma homocysteine and vitamin status in the Framingham study population. Impact of folic acid fortification.Public Health Rev. 2000; 28(1-4):117-45.PH
Recent studies have demonstrated associations between occlusive vascular disease and hyperhomocysteinemia of both genetic and nutritional origin. In the present study we analyzed plasma samples from the 20th biannual examination of the Framingham Heart Study cohort to determine distribution of plasma homocysteine concentrations with emphasis on relationships to vitamins that serve as coenzymes in homocysteine metabolism and to prevalence of carotid artery stenosis. Results showed that homocysteine exhibited strong inverse association with plasma folate and weaker associations with plasma vitamin B12 and pyridoxal-5'-phosphate. We saw similar inverse associations between homocysteine and intakes of folate and vitamin B6, but not vitamin B12. Prevalence of high homocysteine (> 14 mumol/L) was 29.3% in this cohort, and was greatest among subjects with low folate status. Inadequate plasma concentrations of one or more B vitamins appear to contribute to 67% of the cases of high homocysteine. Prevalence of stenosis > or = 25% was 43% in men and 34% in women, with an odds ratio of 2.0 for individuals in the highest homocysteine quartile (> or = 14.4 mumol/L) compared with those in the lowest quartile (< or = 9.1 mumol/L), after adjustment for sex, age, HDL cholesterol, systolic blood pressure, and cigarette smoking (Ptrend < 0.001). Plasma concentrations of folate and pyridoxal-5'-phosphate and folate intake were inversely associated with extracranial carotid stenosis after adjustment for age, sex, and other risk factors. Studies using samples from the Framingham Study Offspring Cohort have shown that the US-mandated folic acid fortification of flour and cereal grain products resulted in an increase in the mean folate concentrations from 4.8 to 10.0 ng/mL (P < 0.001) and prevalence of low folate (< 3 ng/mL) decreased from 22.0 to 1.7% (P < 0.001) between the baseline and follow-up visits. Mean homocysteine concentration decreased from 10.1 to 9.4 microM (P < 0.001), and prevalence of high homocysteine (> 13 mumol/L) decreased from 18.7 to 9.8% (P < 0.001) between study visits. There were no statistically significant changes in the control group for folate or homocysteine between examinations. These data indicate a high prevalence of hyperhomocysteinemia in the Framingham Study population, the majority of which can be attributed to vitamin status and that this hyperhomocysteinemia is clinically relevant because of its association with increased risk of occlusive extracranial carotid stenosis. Insufficient levels of folate, and to a lesser extent vitamin B6, appear to predict part of this elevated risk through their role in homocysteine metabolism. These studies also indicate that the recently-implemented fortification of grain and cereal products with folic acid resulted in a substantial decline in plasma homocysteine. The impact of fortification on the US population is likely to be similar; however it awaits the next survey for further confirmation.