Methylation: A Critical Component of Genetic Expression

Posted on 11/19/2013 by Dr. Adrian den Boer
Categories: cancer, detoxification, hormones, inflammation, methylation, neurological health, toxicity

This week’s blog is a bit chewy and technical, but an extremely important topic on methylation.
What is methylation?
It’s a biochemical process involving the conversion of B vitamins in our foods (such as broccoli and spinach) to active components.
On a chemical level, it involves the attachment and detachment of a methyl group, which is a carbon molecule surrounded by three hydrogen molecules. When this methyl group is donated and attached to an amino acid (the building block of protein), it creates a neurotransmitter. When the methyl group is donated and attached to DNA in the body, it turns on or off a gene. When the methyl group is donated and attached to a hormone, it either changes the hormone to another form or turns the hormone on or off. Thus, this process is one of the most critical elements for brain, hormone, and genetic expression. In fact, it may be behind cancer prevention or formation.
What causes methylation to go wrong, and how does this affect overall health?
There are two main mechanisms behind damaged methylation in the body.  The first is overexposure to toxicity, which steals the precious B vitamins from being able to enter into the methylation process. Blood work wise, homocysteine levels are often indicative of how well methyl groups are being donated, and thus, indicative of overall toxicity in the body.
The second mechanism behind damaged methylation is the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) gene. This gene affects 30-40% of women of Northern European decent, and creates an inability to absorb folic acid properly, and thus methylation.
When either of these mechanisms are at play, methylation malfunctions, making us more prone to numerous conditions and diseases, such as:
- Hormone imbalance
- Degenerating brain function (such as a lower IQ)
- Neurological conditions (such as depression)
- Degenerative diseases
- Cancer
What is the best way to fix and/or optimize methylation?
It’s always best to fix the upstream problem first.
If the patient has the MTHFR gene, taking folic acid in its precursor form (5 tetrahydrofolate) can help with absorption. Others may need to take more vitamin B12 or the precursors to folic acid along with vitamin B12 in combination. Note: It’s crucial that vitamin B12 is combined with intrinsic factor, which activates vitamin B12 and allows for a 70% absorption rate. Without intrinsic factor, there is only a 3% absorption rate of vitamin B12. Otherwise, vitamin B12 supplementation is also effective through injection.
Taking a good multi-vitamin is helpful as well. Nature’s Remedies carries Phyto-Multi, which has folic acid in its bioavailable, precursor form and is one of the highest quality multi-vitamins that I’ve used with patients. Finally, eating lots of foliage is critical to optimizing methylation, as foliage contains abundant B vitamins to fuel this process.
Folks, when methylation is fully functioning, it’s amazing to see the lights go on in the brain, detoxification run smoothly, hormones normalize, and energy return. I’ve even seen difficult conditions to treat, like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, have a tremendous response from improving methylation.
With a few simple changes, this key process in genetic expression can function optimally, which translates to a much improved health and quality of life!