12 January - 20 June 2016

The effect of using omega-3 alone or in combination with folic acid and B vitamins on homocysteine

A new meta-analysis study published in Nutrition Research by researchers at Deakin University, Australia has assessed whether omega-3 polyunsaturated acid supplementation alone or in combination with folic acid and B vitamins is effective in lowering homocysteine.

A new meta-analysis study published in Nutrition Research by researchers at Deakin University, Australia has assessed whether omega-3 polyunsaturated acid supplementation alone or in combination with folic acid and B vitamins is effective in lowering homocysteine.

Homocysteine is an amino acid which is synthesised in methionine metabolism and is present in plasma at levels between 5 – 15µmol/l.  At elevated levels, homocysteine is associated with increased risk of vascular diseases, neurological disease and lower bone mineral density in women.  

In this study, Dawson et al. have used meta-analysis to quantify and compare the effect of omega-3 PUFAs alone on levels of homocysteine and in combination with B vitamins and folic acid. 

Forty-five studies from the Medline Ovid, Embase and Cochrane databases were initially identified and assessed for inclusion. 26 were excluded leaving a final dataset of 19; 13 trials for an omega-3 PUFA arm and 8 trials for an omega-3 PUFA with folic acid and B vitamins arm (2 trials had two trial arms).  Three different models were analysed:  Model A – all trials combined; Model B – omega-3 PUFA supplementation trials; Model C – omega-3 PUFA, folic acid and B vitamin supplementation trials. 

Results obtained supported that hypothesis that omega-3 PUFAs are effective in lowering homocysteine.  The study also supported the hypothesis that when omega-3 PUFAs are combined with folic acid and B vitamins, the homocysteine-lowering effect is greater than that compared to omega-3 PUFAs alone.   Across all trials, an average reduction in homocysteine concentration of -1.18µmol/l was associated with supplementation of 0.2 – 6.0 g/day of omega-3 PUFAs.  Compared to omega-3 supplementation alone, the average homocysteine-lowering effect was greater -1.37µmol/l when combined with folic acid and B vitamins. 

Dawson et al. note that previous research has suggested that DHA omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) play a role in lowering levels of the amino acid by up-regulating metabolic enzymes and improving substrate availability for homocysteine degradation.   However, these trials have often included supplemental folic acid and B vitamins which are well established supplements for lowering homocysteine.  The study states that “given the general health benefits of omega-3 PUFAs and the metabolic link between lipid and homocysteine metabolism, the potential effect on disease might differ when homocysteine is lowered with omega-3 PUFAs as opposed to folic acid.” They indicate that that a “combination of omega-3 PUFAs, folic acid and B-group vitamins may be more beneficial for the goal of reducing homocysteine.”

The study has shown further evidence of the potential of omega-3 PUFAs in lowering homocysteine levels and could provide a rationale to further evaluate whether this approach might modify disease risk.

RSSL has expertise in all aspects of fat analysis and fatty acid profiling, including the determination of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com  

share this article
RSSL endeavours to check the veracity of news stories cited in this free e-mail bulletin by referring to the primary source, but cannot be held responsible for inaccuracies in the articles so published. RSSL provides links to other World Wide Web sites as a convenience to users, but cannot be held responsible for the content or availability of these sites. This document may be copied and distributed provided the source is cited as RSSL's Food e-News and the information so distributed is not used for profit.

Previous editions

Load more editions

Make an Enquiry