Objective: Regular physical activity is associated with a reduction of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality; however, evidence of unfortunate cardiovascular events accompanying elite sport involvement continues to accumulate. To date, no information is available on possible peculiarities of the cardiovascular risk profile in athletes.
Design: The aim of this study was to evaluate plasma homocysteine levels in a group of athletes and to search for relationship with vitamin status and other metabolic variables in order to confirm the existence of a “sport-related hyperhomocysteinaemia” and to explain its clinical significance.
The study population was composed of 82 athletes (59 male and 23 female) practising different sports and 70 healthy age-matched subjects (40 male and 30 female) as a control group. Besides the general clinical and analytical determinations, the assessed variables included homocysteine, folate, vitamin B12, total and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), creatine kinase (CPK) and interleukin-6 (IL-6).
Results: The prevalence of hyperhomocysteinaemia (>15 μmol/l) in athletes and controls was 47% and 15%, respectively. No correlation was found between homocysteine and any of the other investigated variables, in particular plasma folate, blood pressure, LDH, CPK, total and HDL cholesterol and IL-6.
Conclusion: The results of this study confirm the existence of a sport-related hyperhomocysteinaemia which appears linked neither to the same variables found in the general population, nor to specific training-related variables. We suggest that it would represent an adaptation to training but the possibility of a secondary vascular damage cannot be excluded.
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Funding: This study was supported by a grant from the Ministry of Health of Italy – Commission for the Surveillance of Doping (CVD).
Competing interests: None declared.
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