Age Strong: Methylation

  • Methylation is a chemical process which occurs at the cellular level and is important in cardiovascular, neurologic, detoxification and reproductive functioning.

  • SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) is a universal methyl donor. This compound donates its methyl group (-CH3) to other compounds in the body.

  • The cellular system which produces SAMe is dependent on the B vitamin 5-MTHF, also called active folate or methyl folate.

  • If 5-MTHF is not present the methylation cycle cannot function efficiently.

  • 60% of individuals in the United States have a condition in which the enzyme (MTHFR) necessary to produce 5-MTHF is altered and rendered less efficient, thus limiting the production of 5-MTHF.

  • The MTHFR gene codes for the protein (methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase)  necessary to produce 5-MTHF.

  • 60% of individuals in the United State will have a polymorphism in the MTHFR gene. Polymorphisms are DNA sequence variations which are common in a population.

  • Two MTHFR polymorphisms, C677T A1298C are common and have received focus in the integrative community, with limited focus in the allopathic community.

  • MTHFR gene alterations may affect a wide variety of processes in the body such as: cellular metabolism, energy production, glutathione production, neurotransmitter production, gut and brain function, endocrine function and more.

  • Alterations in this gene can lead to low levels of active folate (5-MTHF) and other vitamins, along with elevated levels of homocysteine. A functional MTHFR protein is required for conversion of the amino acid homocysteine  to the amino acid methionine. Methionine is required for the production of other proteins.

Implications of MTHFR Polymorphisms

Issues with production of the following compounds can occur with MTHFR alterations.

  • Glutathione

  • Coenzyme Q10

  • Melatonin

  • Serotonin

  • Nitric Oxide

  • Norepinephrine

  • Epinephrine

  • L-Carnitine

  • Cysteine

  • Taurine

Folic acid, a synthetic form of folate, from food or supplements must be converted to 5-MTHF before it can be utilized in the body’s methylation processes.

Individuals with MTHFR alterations, who cannot methylate folic acid to the active from for the body, should consider the use of 5-MTHF as a supplement, instead of the standard folic acid which is contained in supplements.

This is important for women who are trying to conceive or are pregnant, as folic acid aberrations can increase the risk of neural tube defects.

Thorne produces two vitamins which contain 5-MTHF, which is the metabolically active from of folic acid. Thorne Basic Nutrients and Thorne Basic Prenatal both include 5-MTHF.

It may be beneficial to avoid foods that are enriched with folic acid.

More research is needed on the implications of MTHFR variants.

Recurrent miscarriages and neural tube defects are potentially associated with MTHFR.

In order to support healthy methylation processes in the setting of MTHFR alterations, the following nutrients and supplements can be helpful:

  • 5-MTHF – active folate

  • Methylcobalamin – active B12

  • Pyridoxil 5’-Phosphate – active B6

  • Riboflavin 5’-Phosphate – active B2

  • Magnesium

  • Betaine – an amino acid that may have potential benefits for prevention of  heart disease, and promotion of  muscle gain and fat loss

  • Vitamin D

 In addition to a healthy, whole-food, non-processed food diet, these foods may be beneficial:

  • Asparagus

  • Avocado

  • Broccoli

  • Brussels sprouts

  • Green, leafy vegetables

  • Legumes (peas, beans, lentils)

  • Rice

Lifestyle changes include:

  • Engage in regular physical exercise

  • Avoid excessive alcohol consumption

  • Don’t smoke

  • Avoid excessive coffee consumption (not more than five cups daily)