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Amino Acid May Harm Memory and More

Cognitive problems linked to homocysteine levels

SUNDAY, May 1, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- The amino acid homocysteine may damage the brain, according to a study by researchers in the Netherlands.

Previous research found an association between excess amounts of homocysteine and coronary artery disease.

In the latest study, researchers used neuropsychological exams to assess cognitive function in 345 people with coronary artery disease. They also assessed vascular damage and risk factors.

The investigators found that high levels of homocysteine were associated with lower performance in tests of memory, attention, visual perception, and construction.

"In patients with vascular disease, elevated levels of [homocysteine] were related to a lower performance in cognitive function, even after adjustment for possible variables such as intima-media [artery wall] thickness and site of manifestation of vascular disease," the authors of the study wrote.

One possible explanation for this, they said, is that homocysteine has a direct neurotoxic effect on the brain.

The findings were to be presented Sunday at the American Heart Association's annual conference on cardiovascular disease, epidemiology and prevention.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about homocysteine.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, May 1, 2005
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