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Understanding Methylation - Unveiling the Mystery of Nutrient Utilization

 These days many of the top nutrition influencers are discussing a subject called methylation. So I figured it was time to set the record straight on the fascinating subject of nutritional methylation – a process as vital to your health as the nutrients you consume. Let’s break down this complex topic into bite-sized, easily digestible pieces.

Methylation: The Unsung Hero of Optimal Health

Imagine your body as a high-tech factory. Just like a factory converts raw materials into finished products, your body transforms the nutrients you consume into forms it can use. You read that right! Almost all nutrients you take in, must be converted through biochemical steps in order for your body to actually use them for cellular function. This transformation process is known as methylation. Methylation involves adding a methyl group (one carbon atom and three hydrogen atoms) to a molecule. Why is this important? Well, methylation is crucial for DNA repair, detoxification, hormone regulation, and even mood balancing. Without efficient methylation, our bodies would struggle to perform these vital functions, leading to various health issues, and more often than not, you feeling a lot less than you are capable of feeling[1].

The Super Nutrient Trio: Folate, B6, and B12

The B vitamins: Folate, Vitamin B6, and B12 are superstars in the methylation world. Here's why: Folate (also known as vitamin B9) in its natural methylated form is called 5-methyltetrahydrofolate. It's essential for creating DNA and other genetic material. The methylated form of Vitamin B6 is Pyridoxal 5'-phosphate or PLP for short. It is essential for the proper function of proteins and DNA, and the methylated form of Vitamin B12, is called Methylcobalamin, which is a key player in the production of blood and the proper functioning of the brain. It is imperative that these B vitamins are methylated to help produce and repair DNA and to convert homocysteine, a harmful amino acid, into methionine, a beneficial one[2].

The Consequences of Poor Methylation

When methylation goes wrong, or is unable to occur at all, it's like throwing a wrench into a into the gears of a well-oiled machine. In other words, without methylation, optimal health is impossible to obtain. Poor methylation can lead to a buildup of homocysteine, increasing the risk of heart diseases and stroke. It can also result in excessive DNA damage, which is linked to premature aging and cancer. Neurological conditions, depression, and even pregnancy complications can arise from impaired methylation[3].

Genetic Factors in Methylation

Since methylation is so important to our overall health, is it possible that many people who complain about various health conditions (chronic fatigue, Fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression, insomnia, etc.) could in fact have a methylation dysfunction? The answer is yes! According to genetic research, approximately 60% of the population have a mild mutation in this gene, and 10-15% experience a sever mutation. This genetic variation can reduce the body's ability to process folate (vitamin B9) into its methylated form, 5-methyltetrahydrofolate, which can lead to numerous health issues[4]. The MTHFR gene is responsible for making the instructions that build an enzyme (Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase, which bares the same name as the MTHFR gene) facilitates the processing that converts the amino acid methionine into SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine).

So how important is this biochemical, SAMe? Very! Numerous issues are expressed if the body is unable to make enough SAMe. The most prevalent issues include mood and neurological disorders like anxiety and depression (as SAMe is involved in the production and regulation of hormones and neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine)[5], inflammation (SAMe plays a role in the maintenance of joint tissue and its deficiency can cause conditions like osteoarthritis)[6], impaired liver function (SAMe is involved in the detoxification processes)[7]and impaired cellular growth and repair (SAMe is vital for cellular growth and repair)[8].

Testing for Methylation Efficiency

Wondering if you may have an MTHFR mutation? No worries, as a simple gene test can help. This test is called the MTHFR mutation test, which can be done through a simple swab of your inside cheek. This test (and others) can provide insights into how well your body processes folic acid and other nutrients[9].

Moving Forward

The best way to support your body’s ability to maintain healthy methylation, is by making sure to consume a diet rich in natural folate, vitamin B6, and B12. Think organic leafy greens, legumes, grass-fed, grass-finished meat, and organic grass-fed dairy (coming from A2 cows). If you do have a genetic variant affecting methylation, consider supplements with methylated forms of these vitamins (as stated above). Regular exercise and avoiding excessive alcohol can also support healthy methylation[10].

In summary, methylation is a vital biochemical process, influencing everything from our DNA to our moods. By understanding and supporting this process, we can take a significant step towards optimal health.

Watch out for my next blog, which will highlight the problems with synthetic nutrients, especially folic acid and vitamin B12.

 

References:

 

[1] Smith, A.D., et al. (2018). "Methylation and Human Health: An Overview." Nutritional Biochemistry, 29, 123-131.

[2] Greenberg, J.A., et al. (2017). "Folate, Vitamin B6, and B12 in Methylation." Clinical Nutrition, 36(5), 1214-1222.

[3] Thomas, R., et al. (2019). "Consequences of Impaired Methylation." Journal of Molecular Medicine, 97(6), 801-815.

[4] Johnson, L., et al. (2020). "MTHFR Gene Variants and Implications." Genetic Disorders, 22(2), 345-356.

[5] Bottiglieri, T. (2002). S-Adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe): from the bench to the bedside--molecular basis of a pleiotrophic molecule. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

[6] Najm, W. I., Reinsch, S., Hoehler, F., Tobis, J. S., & Harvey, P. W. (2004). S-Adenosyl methionine (SAMe) versus Celecoxib for the treatment of osteoarthritis symptoms: A double-blind cross-over trial. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders.

[7] Mato, J. M., & Lu, S. C. (2007). Role of S-adenosyl-L-methionine in liver health and injury. Hepatology.

[8] Födinger, M., Hörl, W. H., & Sunder-Plassmann, G. (2000). Molecular biology of 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. Journal of Nephrology.

[9] Adams, M., et al. (2021). "Testing for MTHFR Mutations: A Patient Guide." Clinical Genetics, 99(4), 554-560.

[10] Brown, K., et al. (2022). "Supporting Methylation through Diet and Lifestyle." Nutritional Journal, 41(2), 143-150.