pharoahRoughly 3,500 years ago, an enigmatic pharoah ruled over the Egyptian empire named Akhenaten. The husband of Nefertiti, and possibly the father of Tutankhamun, the young pharaoh whose undisturbed tomb was found at Luxor in the Valley of the Kings, this powerful figure in Egyptian history is remarkable for several reasons. The first is that he may have instituted the first monotheistic religion of the Ancient world focused on the worship of the Sun God Aten. The second is that he may have been afflicted with a rare genetic disease that may have caused him to be mentally disturbed, obstructed vision, abnormal skeletal and neurological development, and may explain why he died before age 35.   

University researchers in Croatia have proposed a novel theory that Akhenaten may have suffered from Homocystinuria, a rare genetic disorder that causes the body to accumulate extremely high levels of homocysteine which in turn produces that major health effects and symptoms of the disease.

Homocysteine is a non-essential amino acid that is an intermediate in the metabolic cycle between the essential amino acids Methionine and Cysteine. Elevated levels of homocysteine in the blood are strongly correlated with an increased risk of several health conditions, namely coronary artery disease which is when the small blood vessels on the heart muscle become damaged or obstructed and the ultimate result is a heart attack.

heartElevated homocysteine levels are also considered a risk marker for stroke, thrombosis, blood clots, as well as neurological and mental disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia. High homocysteine levels also increase oxidative stress on the body which can damage cells in nearly any organ system, however it appears this oxidative effect of homocysteine is most pronounced on the blood vessels.

Homocysteine also impacts collagen in the body which is important for proper joint function. There is some evidence that suggests that elevated homocysteine may also increase the risk of miscarriages and birth defects in pregnant women.

The Croatian researchers believed that the ancient Pharoah Akhenaten suffered from genetically-induced elevations of homocysteine, and they point to several pieces of evidence. In the artistic representations of him, he is shown as unusually tall and thin, with protruding facial features, a sagging gut, and long fingers, all considered classical signs of elevated homocysteine levels that begin from birth. The also believe that his quest to found a radical new religion and other highly divergent actions may have been indicative of the mental degradation that often accompanies chronically elevated homocysteine. Finally, they believe that the reason he died in his early thirties is due to a cardiac event. Individuals born with this homocysteine defect have a 60% chance of suffering a fatal heart attack by age 30.

While Akhenaten may have had elevated homocysteine due to an unavoidable genetic condition, the same condition can also be produced through dietary and lifestyle factors. In order for the body to convert homocysteine into cysteine, an amino acid that assists in protein production and certain detoxification pathways, the body needs several B vitamins, namely B12, B6, and Folic Acid. Deficiency in these essential nutrients can impede the bodies ability to process excess homocysteine.

A diet that lacks these nutrients and regular consumption of alcohol are the two primary sources of B vitamin depletion and elevated homocysteine levels in Western populations. While abstaining from alcohol and consuming quality sources of animal proteins and green leafy vegetables, in most cases should reduce the risk of developing elevated homocysteine, many individuals can greatly benefit from supplementation of these nutrients:

B12, Cyanocobalamin

B6, Pyridoxine

B9, Folic Acid

While there are many different types of folic acid, the most beneficial form for improving homocysteine levels if the 5-Methyltetrahydrofolate (MTHF). This is the form that helps turn homocysteine back into methionine.

B vitamin supplementation is extremely safe because these nutrients are water soluble and excess amounts are harmlessly excreted via the urine.

The only catch is that the older you are and the greater your homocysteine levels, the longer it takes for this adjusted diet and nutrient supplementation to improve your levels. That is why it is best to take a preventative approach and provide your body with a healthy supply of these nutrients to prevent homocysteine elevation in the first place and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and other conditions associated with elevated homocysteine.

While it is undoubtedly too late to save our friend, the Ancient Pharoah, it’s not too late for you and your loved ones to follow the path to better health.healthy way