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BACKGROUND: Patients with renal impairment have markedly elevated homocysteine levels and are at particularly high risk of ischemic heart disease (IHD) and stroke, but the relevance of elevated homocysteine levels in this population is uncertain. METHODS: We examined the association with IHD from a meta-analysis of 30 population studies of differences in homocysteine concentrations (involving 5000 IHD and 1100 stroke events in apparently healthy individuals), and from a meta-analysis of 40 studies (involving 11,000 IHD events) of the association of methylene-tetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) and homocysteine with IHD. We explored the association of renal function with homocysteine levels in a cross-sectional study of 1200 healthy elderly individuals. RESULTS: Among prospective studies, a 25% lower blood homocysteine level was associated with an 11% lower risk of IHD and about a 20% lower risk of stroke, after adjustment for known cardiovascular risk factors. Individuals who had the TT genotype for MTHFR compared with those with CC had 25% higher homocysteine levels and a 16% higher risk of IHD. Among individuals aged over 65 years, a 1% higher serum creatinine level was associated with about a 1% higher homocysteine concentration. CONCLUSIONS: The concordance of the IHD risks obtained in the studies of genetically determined differences in homocysteine and the population-based studies of homocysteine suggest that these associations are likely to be causal. Renal function is an important determinant of circulating homocysteine concentrations. Results of ongoing randomized trials of folic acid-based vitamins in patients with renal disease are required to clarify the relevance of lowering homocysteine for vascular disease.

Original publication




Journal article


Kidney Int Suppl

Publication Date



S131 - S133


Homocysteine, Humans, Hyperhomocysteinemia, Kidney, Kidney Diseases, Prospective Studies, Risk Factors, Stroke