Homocysteine increases during endurance exercise

Markus Herrmann, Heike Schorr, Rima Obeid, Jürgen Scharhag, Axel Urhausen, Wilfried Kindermann, Wolfgang Herrmann*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

63 Citations (Scopus)


Hyperhomocysteinemia is a risk factor for cardiovascular and other diseases. Recently many endogenous and exogenous modulators of homocysteine (Hcy) have become known, e.g., B-vitamins. However, little is known about the effect of exercise on Hcy. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of three different types of acute endurance exercise on serum Hcy. We measured Hcy in 100 recreational athletes (87 males, 13 females) who participated in a marathon race (n = 46), a 100 km run (100 km; n = 12) or a 120 km mountain bike race (n = 42). Blood samples were taken before, 15 min and 3 h after the race. In athletes with pre-race Hcy > 12 μmol/l we also determined folate and vitamin B12. Marathon running induced a Hcy increase of 64%, while mountain biking and 100 km running had no significant effect on Hcy. Pre-race Hcy (25th-75th percentile) overall; marathon race; 100 km; mountain bike race was 9.7 (7.1-11.5) μmol/l; 9.8 (7.4-11.1) μmol/I; 10.2 (6.6-13.2) μmol/I; 9.1 (6.9-13.5) μmol/l, respectively. At 15 min and 3 h post-race, Hcy was 11.9 (8.4-16.4) μmol/l; 16.1 (12.7-20.4) μmol/l; 9.5 (7.8-15.9) μmol/l; 8.8 (7.1-11.2) μmol/l, respectively, and 11.5 (8.9-15.7) μmol/l; 14.9 (11.5-20.0) μmol/l; 10.0 (8.1-11.8) μmol/l; 9.4 (7.4-12.1) μmol/l, respectively. The change in Hcy correlated negatively with the running time. Twenty-three athletes had pre-race Hcy levels > 12 μmol/l, which were associated with relatively low folate (14.3 (11.6-18.9) nmol/l) and vitamin B12 levels (231 (183-261) pmol/l). Endurance exercise may induce a considerable Hcy increase, which varies between different disciplines and is most probably determined by the duration and intensity of exercise. Furthermore, about 25% of recreational endurance athletes exhibited hyperhomocysteinemia in association with low vitamin B12 and folate levels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1518-1524
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Folate
  • Homocysteine
  • Marathon running
  • Mountain biking
  • Physical exercise
  • Vitamin B


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