The term methylation is getting thrown around a lot. That’s good because the biochemical process of methylation does so much in your health outcomes and you should be familiar with it. Methylation is the 2nd most abundant chemical reaction that occurs each and every day inside you, right after oxidation-reduction reactions that produce your energy power house ATP.
So what is methylation? The literal answer is the addition of a methyl group (CH3) to an inactive compound to make it active. But what does that mean to you and your health plans? This simple process of adding a single carbon molecule has global effects for maintaining and acceleration many pathways including: neurotransmitters, hormones, detoxification, DNA synthesis, immune system activity, and joint health.
In short, methylation promotes health cells and regulates the expression of genes. One of the most well known genes that relies on methylation is MTHFR (Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase). In short, this gene helps the conversion in the pathway from folic acid to methyl tetrahydrofolate (the active form of folic acid). Without this ability, folic acid remains inactive and this can disrupt a number of reactions that should feed the nervous system. If the nervous system isn’t supported, this can have global consequences, especially for a fetus in early development. It’s this active form of folic acid that starts and creates a series of countless critical enzymatic reactions.
For example: Dr. Ben Lynch points out
Let’s discuss one such critical enzymatic reaction to put MTHFR into perspective.
MTHFR is the first step in producing a critical compound called s-adenosylmethionine, commonly known as SAMe. SAMe is needed to produce CoQ10, carnitine and creatine. These same nutrients are recommended in those undergoing complementary and alternative medicine infertility treatments.
Let’s point out another one.
Elevated homocysteine is a commonly known risk factor contributing to recurrent pregnancy loss, preeclampsia, infertility, Down Syndrome and other serious concerns surrounding pregnancy.
Homocysteine is a by-product of SAMe. Methylfolate, along with its companion methylcobalamin (active B12), help convert harmful homocysteine into beneficial methionine which then helps produce SAMe. The cycle goes round and round happily as long as a functioning MTHFR gene produces methylfolate.
In the absence of sufficient methylfolate, homocysteine levels may rise to a harmful level.
Elevated homocysteine has been linked to over 1oo diseases with Alzheimer’s and heart disease being the most common.
Regardless if you have an actual genetic problem (polymorphism) in the MTHFR gene, our lifestyles are depleting our methylation reserves. Because of our emotional stress load, our toxic load, our immune/inflammatory load, and so much more, this process of methylation deserves your support in your health journey.
Recently, John Hopkins University released a study analyzed data from 1,391 mother-child pairs. The women who had both excessive folate and vitamin B12 levels were over 17 times more likely to have children that develop the autism spectrum disorder. Those with excessive folate levels – four times above what is considered adequate – faced double the risk.
Why this matters is because the initial Dr. Andrew Wakefield study that set the world on fire surrounding vaccines and autism, really had more to do with methylation than vaccine adverse effects. Sadly, this point in his research never caught the media’s attention.
Urinary methylmalonic-acid concentrations were raised in most of the children, a finding indicative of a functional vitamin B12 deficiency. Although vitamin B12 concentrations were normal, serum B12 is not a good measure of functional B12 status. (25) Urinary methylmalonic-acid excretion is increased in disorders such as Crohn’s disease, in which cobalamin excreted in bile is not reabsorbed. A similar problem may have occurred in the children in our study. Vitamin B12 is essential for myelinogenesis in the developing central nervous system, a process that is not complete until around the age of 10 years. B12 deficiency may, therefore, be a contributory factor in the developmental regression. (26)
What this means is that despite adequate B12 levels in the blood, the high methylmalonic-acid means the person wasn’t utilizing the B12. It could be a gut issue like mentioned in his research but it can also be a methylation defect like MTHFR or just the need for extra methylation support.
What’s the Point?
The point is that supplementation is more than just a consumption of nutrients, especially when we are talking about the B vitamins, that have such critical roles in the methylation process. After trying a bunch of different brands like Thorne, Ortho Molecular Products, and other active B vitamin complexes, my favorite has to be from Nutriwest called Methyl Renew. But I also like to pair it with another product from Thorne called Citramins, which contains many of the mineral co-factors needed for the methylation pathways.
I often hate recommending products because I don’t want people taking something to take something. Dig deeper and discover what your body needs. Need help, you know how to find me.