Physical activity is inversely associated with total homocysteine levels, independent of C677T MTHFR genotype and plasma B vitamins.
The homocysteine level is considered to be a product of genetic and lifestyle interactions, mainly mutated methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) and the intake of folate, vitamin B12 and pyridoxine, and their blood levels. Physical activity has been associated with lower homocysteine levels in some population studies, especially among elderly subjects. To further elucidate the observed association between homocysteine and physical activity, while accounting for the effect of the MTHFR C677T genotype, and of plasma levels of folate and B12 vitamins, a cross-sectional study of 620 males and females, aged 70.5 +/- 6.8 years, was carried out. Information on lifestyle habits was collected and laboratory examinations of 12-h fasting total plasma homocysteine, folate, and vitamin B12, as well as DNA analysis for MTHFR C677T variant, were performed. Median total homocysteine values were 11.4 micromol/l for males and 9.4 for females; p < 0.001. Smoking and ethnic origin were not found to be associated with homocysteine levels. Physically active subjects had significantly lower total homocysteine levels when adjusted for sex (p = 0.01). Significant inverse correlations were found between body mass index, plasma folate, B12 and homocysteine levels. Homocysteine levels of the CC, CT and TT genotypes were 9.7, 10.6 and 10.2 mumol/l, respectively (p = 0.002, controlling for sex). In a multiple linear regression model, a sedentary lifestyle increased homocysteine levels by 7% as compared to an active one (p = 0.03) controlling for sex, age, body mass index, folate, vitamin B12, and C677T genotype, all of which were also found to be significantly associated with homocysteine levels. Any level of physical activity was found to be independently associated with lower homocysteine levels in an elderly population, controlling for MTHFR genotype, plasma B-vitamins, age, sex, smoking and BMI. This study emphasizes the importance of maintaining a physically active lifestyle in the elderly.