The Importance of Methylation Support

CH3, Methylation, and Specific B-Vitamins

It is quite possible that you have never heard the term methylation or know what it means. Conversely, you’ve most certainly heard of the molecule H2O and appreciate its critical life-sustaining role. A different molecule - CH3 - is far less known, but no less important than the ubiquitous H2O. CH3 is known as a methyl group, and it consists of one carbon and three hydrogen atoms. In Biochemistry, CH3 serves as the key constituent in methylation, or methylation cycle as often termed. Chemical reactions involve the addition of a methyl group on a substrate, or the substitution of an atom or molecule with a methyl group. Methylation serves to recycle homocysteine safely back to methionine, an essential amino acid required of many proteins and other biological processes. Additionally, methylation works to repair DNA, assist in detoxification, maintain mood, and aid in controlling the level of inflammation in the body. When not methylating properly, one is at a greater risk for diabetes, cervical dysplasia, colon cancer, lung cancer, osteoporosis, depression, mood dysregulation, cognitive dysfunction, neuropathies and cardiovascular disease.

Optimizing methylation is one strategy to support the body against various forms of degenerative disease. To support this process, one should receive robust levels of methyl groups from diet and supplementation; methyl donors such as methyl-folate, methylcobalamin B12, pyridoxal-5-phosphate B6, and trimethylglycine. This also means avoiding substances that cause the methylation process to break down or become overwhelmed. The factors that break down the methylation process and increase your need for methyl donors are numerous. For example, Genetics can play a significant role in methylation. It is estimated that roughly 20% of the US population has a genetic Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) that increases the need for methyl-folate and B12. Poor diets tend to exacerbate this condition, which is why diets should include a variety of leafy green vegetables, fruits and other vitamin-rich non-inflammatory foods to supply the necessary levels of methyl donors. Diets with excess animal protein, sugar and alcohol can lower the levels of vital methyl donors, and therefore should be avoided if possible. Carbon monoxide from cigarette smoke will render Vitamin B6 inactive. Malabsorption from digestive disorders, food allergies and even aging can reduce the absorption of methyl donors. Certain medications can also affect the levels of B vitamin methyl donors available and create an increased need for higher levels. One of the most significant factors impacting methylation is our ever-increasing level of toxic exposure, which places a greater demand on detoxification pathways.

So how does one know if methylation is optimal? Specifically, a simple lab test such as CBC (Complete Blood Count) can provide some indication. When the mean corpuscular volume of a patient’s red blood cells become greater than 95, a methylation problem may be present. One of the best and simplest tests for optimal methylation is serum homocysteine. Labs vary on their upper level of homocysteine, but most utilize 12 µmol/L as an upper limit. However, many experts believe an ideal level to be between 5.5 to 7.5 µmol/L. Homocysteine is an amino acid and breakdown product that has been linked to increased heart attacks and strokes when present in elevated levels. Elevated homocysteine has been likened to sandpaper against the arterial walls, causing damage and increasing plaque formation. High levels can also increase risks for clot formation and chronic inflammation. Some studies show that individuals with elevated homocysteine levels have twice the risk of Alzheimer’s disease as well. When one begins to understand the methylation process, one can also see how elevated homocysteine levels are connected to so many deleterious outcomes. A more sensitive way of measuring a patient’s cellular deficiencies of B12 and folic acid is through a urinary organic acid profile. Sometimes you may find that CBC and homocysteine is fairly normal, yet levels of urinary methylmalonic acid and/or formiminoglutamic acid (FIGLU) are quite elevated, indicating the need for methylation support. Elevated urinary methylmalonic acid is specific for cellular B12 deficiency even if serum levels are normal. Elevated urinary formiminoglutamic acid (FIGLU) levels are specific for cellular methyl folate deficiencies even if serum levels are normal. This is a test that can be run through many different labs.

Whether one utilizes sophisticated laboratory measurements or not, it can be beneficial to supplement with increased methyl donor support, in addition to a natural whole foods diet. Biospec Nutritionals has taken the initiative to include various bioavailable methyl donors in many of their formulations. With regard to B-vitamins, these include pyridoxal 5'-phosphate (B-6), methylcobalamin (B-12) and L-5-Methyltetrahydrofolate, which is the most biologically available form of folate avaiable. An ideal multi-formulation containing methyl donors is Fibro-Ease Multi. It provides full 2000 mg of Folate (5-methyl-tetrahydrofolate) and 1000 mg of methylcobalamin B12 in four tablets daily, along with 100 mg of B6. For those with a much greater need for methyl support due to elevated homocysteine or diabetic and peripheral neuropathy, Biospec has created Methyl-Ease HP. For a complete description of this product please visit the Methyl-Ease HP product page.