The aim of the present study was to investigate the relationship between homocysteine and homocysteine metabolism components and retinal microvascular disorders in subjects with and without Type 2 diabetes. In this population-based study of 256 participants, aged 60–85 years, we determined total plasma homocysteine, SAM (S-adenosylmethionine) and SAH (S-adenosylhomocysteine) in plasma and erythrocytes, total folate in serum and erythrocytes, 5-MTHF (5-methyltetrahydrofolate), and vitamins B12 and B6. Participants were examined ophthalmologically by means of indirect funduscopy and two-field 45 ° fundus photography, and were graded for retinopathy and retinal sclerotic vessel abnormalities. A computer-assisted method was used to measure retinal vessel diameters. Total plasma homocysteine was inversely associated with retinal arteriolar diameters {standardized β, −0.20 [95% CI (confidence interval), −0.33 to −0.07]} or a decrease of 3.78 μm CRAEs (central retinal arteriolar equivalents) per 1 S.D. increase in homocysteine level (=4.6 μmol/l). In addition, the SAM/SAH ratio in plasma was inversely associated with retinal sclerotic vessel abnormalities and retinopathy [odds ratios, 0.61 (95% CI, 0.39–0.96) and 0.50 (95% CI, 0.30–0.83) per 1 S.D. respectively]. The associations were independent of age, sex, glucose tolerance status, other homocysteine metabolism components and cardiovascular risk factors. In conclusion, the results of the present study support the concept that total plasma homocysteine and a low SAM/SAH ratio in plasma, which may reflect reduced transmethylation reactions, may contribute to the pathogenesis of (retinal) microangiopathy.

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