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Keywords:

  • Folate;
  • homocysteine;
  • pyridoxal 5-phosphate;
  • vitamin B12

Abstract. Homocysteine is a probably atherogenic amino acid, the fasting and post-methionine load serum concentrations of which have been reported to be much lower in premenopausal women than in men and postmenopausal women. This difference has been proposed to explain the reduced proneness of premenopausal women to vascular disease. We measured both free and total plasma homocysteine concentrations both fasting and postmethionine load, in 169 healthy subjects. Twelve subjects (7%) had distinctly abnormal plasma homocysteine values. Among the remaining 157 subjects, neither fasting nor post-load values of free or total homocysteine were lower in premenopausal women (n= 46) than in men of similar age (n= 41) or postmenopausal women (n= 37). Fasting but not post-load values were lower in postmenopausal women than in men of similar age (n= 33), and lower among the women as a whole (n= 83) than among the men (n= 74). In men, fasting values increased with age, and paralleled age-related decreases in the concentrations of homocysteine metabolism cofactors (serum vitamin B12, blood folate, and plasma pyridoxal 5-phosphate). Both in men and in women, fasting total plasma homocysteine values were significantly and negatively correlated to serum vitamin B12 and blood folate concentrations. Whether the small differences in plasma homocysteine values between the present men and women may be a contributory factor vis-à-vis their different proneness to vascular disease has yet to be settled.