Coffee consumption and blood homocysteine

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Homocysteine and cardiovascular disease risk

Homocysteine is a naturally occurring amino acid found in the blood and tissues. However, it is not among the twenty amino acids that are the building blocks of proteins, and hence is not found in dietary protein. Several factors influence plasma homocysteine levels, such as intake of folic acid and vitamin B12, age, gender, heredity, smoking, hypertension and physical activity43.

It was first suggested back in 1999 that elevated levels of homocysteine in the blood are associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease44. However, not all studies have been able to demonstrate this association45,46. It is still unclear whether reducing high homocysteine levels will lead to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition, no causal relationship has been established between high total plasma homocysteine levels (tHCYs) and cardiovascular disease47.

Coffee, caffeine and homocysteine

Intervention studies have shown that high levels of coffee consumption (6 to 10 cups of coffee per day) increase tHCYs48,49, and tHCYs decrease if regular coffee consumers stop drinking coffee50. However, a study based on 5 cups of espresso a day did not show a significant effect of tHCYs, possibly because of the smaller volume consumed51.

It has been suggested that caffeine may be partly responsible for the effect of coffee on tHCYs52, but the presence of chlorogenic acid in coffee can also contribute to the effect on homocysteine53.

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