Folates and MTHFR, whats the link?

Posted on 04-28-2016

Folic acid is actually a synthetically made vitamin in supplements and is created in the intestines by bacterial fermentation. Folates or Methyl folate are what we find in nature, as in whole foods like plants that you eat. While Folic acid has served the purpose of helping pregnant woman prevent a developmental disorder known as Spina bifida, research continues to grow, and we now know that this form is largely undesirable. Why you might ask is this the case?

We need to start with an understanding of our genetics. We all inherit genes, and genes regulate enzyme function. MTHFR is the gene that regulates folate metabolism. As we inherit our genes, we can also inherit some mutations. These mutations are called single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNP’s for short. Some of us process folates normally and this directly relates to what is known as Methylation. Methyl is a basic part of our biochemistry; it is comprised of one carbon and 3 hydrogens. All of our cells methylate all of the time, but we methylate in the liver more than anywhere else. Methylation is actually a metabolic function that is largely controlled by various genes and the nutrients B6, Folate, B12 and TMG.

Dr. Bill Walsh PhD, of the Walsh research Institute, states that 70% of us methylate normally, 22% are under methylators and 8% are over methylators. His research is all about mood, behavior and mental health. The relationship of Folates, B6, Copper and zinc, has profound effects on our neurotransmitter status such as Serotonin, Dopamine, Norepinephrine and GABA.

So important is this information as it relates to mental health, that if you, or someone you know suffers with anxiety, depression or other mood disorders and has not had these elements properly evaluated in this context, then the doctors you are seeing have not studied this research, and root cause resolution is not possible.

Of course some emotional disturbances are unrelated to this, but it is important to understand that in many cases, these components represent a flaw in one’s biochemistry, not a flaw in their character!

One of the big issues with Folic acid is to know if we can metabolize it properly, and as I just pointed out, not all of us can. If too much un-metabolized folic acid circulates in the liver over time, it can drive carcinogenesis or liver cancer.

Be sure to read your supplement labels and look for the terms Methyl Folate, 6sMethylfolate, L Methyl folate, Quatrafolic or Folinic acid, but regular Folic acid should be avoided in most cases. .

The process of methylation we are discussing is actually quite profound, as it regulates many other aspects of our biochemistry and thus our life.

Have you ever heard of Homocysteine when your doctor runs your routine blood tests? If you haven’t you should!

Homocysteine is an amino acid in your body that is part of the basic methylation cycle we have been discussing. It is an independent marker for cardiovascular disease if elevated, and it has nothing to do with cholesterol!

Homocysteine levels greater than 8.0 have been shown to express toxicity and inflammation to your blood vessels. Some researchers have shown an association between elevated levels and dementia related illness over time.

The basic methylation cycle occurs when Methionine (another amino acid) converts to Homocysteine. If we have enough vitamin B6, Folate and B12, one converts to the other and all is well in methyl land. If we do not have enough of the above nutrients and in the right forms, the cycle is interfered with and Homocysteine starts elevating in our blood streams.

This diagram depicts the basic methylation cycle.

But wait there is more to this scenario. Notice that when vitamin B6 is present in the correct amount, homocysteine converts to Glutathione.

Glutathione is one of the most important inter-cellular antioxidants, that sit’s inside of our cells protecting our DNA and keeping all kinds of bad guys in check. It helps us detoxify properly and especially helping us rid our bodies of heavy metals like lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic!

So you see, Folic Acid is a big deal, and as part of the methylation cycle, has far reaching ramifications for our health.

Dr. Loren Marks is a chiropractor and board certified clinical nutritionist in NYC. Founder Integrative Assessment Technique (IAT) and a frequent lecturer on clinically relevant topics in nutritional biochemistry.

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