For years I took a B Complex vitamin and had no idea what those B vitamins were actually responsible for. I mean, besides folate (vitamin B9) do you know what all the different B’s actually do?
Well, I’m gonna tell ya and it might totally blow your mind. Who knew a vitamin lesson could be this thrilling right?!
There are 8 B vitamins and altogether they are known as the B Complex of vitamins. We’ve got:
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- Vitamin B3 (niacin)
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine, pyridoxal, or pyridoxamine, or pyridoxine hydrochloride)
- Vitamin B7 (biotin)
- Vitamin B9 (folate)
- Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)
What do B complex vitamins do?
Each of the B vitamins provides a different service to the body but they also work synergistically. The B complex is responsible for energy generation, metabolism, and the synthesis and breakdown of fats, carbohydrates, proteins, amino acids, steroid hormones and neurotransmitters. Yeah, they are kind of a big deal. And keep in mind they are water soluble so they need to be replenished daily.
The MTHFR gene and its impact on B complex vitamin absorption:
We all have a gene called the MTHFR gene. Upon completion of the Human Genome Project in 2002, it was discovered that many people have a variant of this gene – about 60% of the US population in fact! And 40% of British and Australians too. You’re probably wondering what on earth the MTHFR gene is huh? Well, it’s actual name is methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (way too long for us unscientific folks to pronounce) and it if you have the gene defect or mutation, it’s more than likely that you are not absorbing and utilizing the B complex vitamins efficiently.
Just to clarify, these are the different variants that show up most often:
- MTHFR 677CC = a normal MTHFR gene – this means you’re all good!!
- MTHFR 677CT = a heterozygous variant which is one variant – not great but better than two mutations
- MTHFR 677TT = a homozygous variant which is two variants – this is what I have and I def have some issues
- MTHFR 1298AA = a normal MTHFR gene – again all good!
- MTHFR 1298AC = a heterozygous variant which is one variant – not great but better than two mutations
- MTHFR 1298CC = a homozgyous variant which is two variants – will cause more issues than just one mutation
- MTHFR 677CT + MTHFR 1298AC = a compound heterozygous variant which is one variant from two different parts of the gene – this seems to be the worst form of the variant.
Okay back to B vitamins. When we are not getting enough of the B Complex vitamins, a lot of issues can arise. For women in particular, the list is even longer.
When we are deficient in B vitamins, these symptoms and conditions tend to show up:
- Deficiency in B12 results in infertility by causing changes in ovulation or development of the ovum or changes leading to defective implantation, and ultimately miscarriage. In fact, many women with this mutation have multiple miscarriages before finding out the main cause is this gene.
- Deficiency in Folate (B9) can result in pre-eclampsia and neural tube defects in babies.
- Depression, anxiety, PMS, PMDD, post-partum depression, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. Pregnancy can exacerbate a B12 deficiency because high amounts of B12 are needed by the fetus, thus leaving the woman more depleted than she was pre-pregnancy and setting her up for post-partum depression.
- Higher rates of anemia in women who are still cycling and women who are pregnant – see #6 below.
- Thyroid problems – high copper and other heavy metals can inhibit thyroid function – see #6 below.
- Abnormalities in the cells of the reproductive tract, cervix and uterine lining which may be diagnosed as cervical dysplasia.
Here’s an excerpt on the MTHFR gene from the website stopthethyroidmadness.com – a seriously great site by the way!
What a healthy MTHFR gene does for you
When it’s all working right, the MTHFR gene begins a multi-step chemical breakdown process, aka methylation, which in simplified terms, is like this:
- The MTHFR gene produces the MTHFR enzyme.
- The MTHFR enzyme works with the folate (vitamin B9), breaking it down from 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate to 5-methyltetrahydrofolate
- 5-methyltetrahydrofolate helps convert the amino acid homocysteine down to another essential amino acid, methionine, which is used by your body to make proteins, utilize antioxidants, and to assist your liver to process fats. Methionine helps with depression and even inflammation. It also helps convert estradiol (E2) into estriol (E3)!
- Methionine is converted in your liver into SAM-e (s-adenosylmethionine), which is anti-inflammatory, supports your immune system, helps produce then breakdown of your brain chemicals serotonin, dopamine and melatonin, and is involved in the growth, repair and maintenance of your cells.
A proper methylation pathway like the above is going to mean you will have a better chance of eliminating toxins and heavy metals, which can reduce your risk for cancer and other health issues.
What a defective MTHFR gene does to you
- It produces a defective MTHFR enzyme of different varieties i.e. it functions less than optimally, such as performing at only 40% of its capacity, or 70% of its capacity. It can mean you won’t break down toxins well.
- The defective enzyme doesn’t break down folate vitamins properly (of which folic acid is one), which can cause high homocysteine, which can increase your risk of coronary heart disease (arteriosclerotic vascular disease or venous thrombosis), and related heart and BP conditions, as well as increasing your risk for dementia.
- Homocysteine is poorly converted to glutathione, which is your body’s chief antioxidant and detoxifier. You are then more susceptible to stress and toxin buildup.
- Homocysteine is poorly converted to methionine, and less methionine can raise your risk of arteriosclerosis, fatty liver degenerative disease, anemia, increased inflammation, increased free radical damage… and produce less SAM-e
- Less SAM-e can increase depression
- And more broadly, an MTHFR defect can increase your risk of a variety of cancers (including breast and prostate cancer), stroke, heart problems, congenital defects, depression, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), miscarriages, migraines, chemical sensitivities and many conditions.
- You can find yourself with high folate or high B12. i.e. your body will have problems converting inactive forms of folate and B12 to the active forms. So the inactive folate or B12 will simply build up in your serum, also inhibiting the active forms.
- You may find yourself with high mercury, or high copper, or high other heavy metals….though not always. High copper can cause low iron levels.
- The journal Molecular Psychiatry states that “Schizophrenia-like syndromes, bipolar disorder, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia have all been associated with one or more mutations of the MTHFR gene”. (2006;11, 352–360)
I know by now you’re wanting to find out how you can deal with this. Luckily, there are a number of easy solutions.
NOTE: If you find that your ‘folic acid’ or your B12 lab test levels are high this could be an indicator that you have a MTHFR gene variant. This is because a defect in the gene prevents your body from utilizing inactive forms of these B vitamins, so they go unused by the body and end up being too high. These high inactive forms of the B vitamins then block the active forms from being utilized. This is obviously a big problem!
Additionally, high homocysteine levels are another indicator that you may have this gene variant.
Here’s what you should do if you have an MTHFR genetic variant:
1. The first thing you need to do is avoid any supplements that have synthetic forms of the B vitamins in them. For instance, any supplement with folic acid is no good – this is just the synthetic, inactive form of folate.
I often recommend supplements with the methylated (active) forms of the key B vitamins but PLEASE NOTE, these may not work for you depending on the type of variant you have. If you are double homozygous (both your MTHFR genes are variants), methyl folate and methyl-B12 supplementation can cause problems for you. Also, you should not consume high doses of niacin (vitamin B3), because it can hinder methylation.
If you experience any negative effects – severe anxiety, panic, headaches, migraines, insomnia, palpitations, rash and achy joints – please discontinue use of methyl-folate products and seek the help of a trained practitioner who can help you get to the root cause.
You can find a practitioner on Dr. Ben Lynch’s website. He is a leading expert on MTHFR variants and he’s also got a great post on preventing methylfolate side effects.
This is what the supplement label should say:
- Vitamin B6 (as Pyridoxal 5′-Phosphate or P5P)
- Folate (as L-5-Methyltetrahydrofolate or 5-MTHF from L-5-Methyltetrahydrofolic Acid)
- Vitamin B12 (as Methylcobalamin)
I recommend Thorne Research Basic B Complex or Seeking Health B Complex Plus.
2. Avoid any processed foods that contain folic acid. These include packaged or boxed fortified breads, baked goods and cereals – these are foods that have had all their B vitamins stripped out of them in the processing and refining stage and then they have been re-fortified with synthetic B vitamins.
3. Consume more healthy foods that contain folate – leafy green vegetables, broccoli, brown rice and quinoa etc.
4. Get tested if you’re really curious. Visit 23andme.com, a website that offers a full genetic test. They only provide the raw genetic data though, so once you get your results from 23andme, you’ll need to upload it at either of the sites below in order to determine your methylation information:
- GeneticGenie – upload your data and you’ll get a report back. You can compare it to the information at the top of the post on the different MTHFR mutations.
- KnowYourGenetics.com – Dr. Amy Yasko’s website. She is a genetic genius!
If you have specific health concerns that you think are related to your genes, then I recommend working with an experienced practitioner who can create a plan for your unique genetic makeup.
5. Detoxify detoxify. Because your body’s detoxification processes are so limited you need to help her out. Support your liver with a product like Gaia Herbs Milk Thistle or Thorne Research Liver Cleanse. Start sweating – in an infrared sauna or steam room, through exercise and take epsom salt baths – 2-3 times a week.
0 thoughts on “What is Methylated Folate?”
Could there be a non-MTHFR gene mutation condition that would cause a person to not have the necessary enzymes to process synthetic B vitamins?
Specifically, I’m thinking of T2 diabetes. Would damage to the liver and/or pancreas affect a person’s ability to methylate B vitamins properly? This could explain diabetic neuropathy, and poor energy (ATP) production in T2 diabetics.
The above link/article highlights the paradox of high vitamin B levels and obesity. Although I think the author(s) missed the point of when grains were introduced as a staple food in the late 1930’s, and then made the “official” major nutrient in government dietary guidelines in the mid 70’s.
Hint, it may have been the excessive carbohydrates causing the obesity problems….
It’s hard to say which caused which (chicken vs egg as to which came first). The article, for the most part, contends that maybe high amounts of synthetic B vitamins are responsible for obesity.
I would contend that carbohydrates are the main culprit for obesity, and that the excessive vitamin B serum levels that are being seen [in T2 diabetics] is actually a symptom of a damaged liver and/or pancreas, and their inability to process non-methylated B vitamins. I think this theory would explain the so called “paradox” in the linked article.
What are your thoughts on this?
I read your articles and they very clear I am impressed by your site You made and giving us such a great and useful tips Thanks for sharing the best posts
I am hetrozygous on the A1298C. I was tested as one of my sisters found she had a mutation on each part of the gene. My Doctor said my homocystien level was okay and didn’t recommend anything. Lucky I read. I read A LOT about it and found that everyone is different and dosages have to be tried to find the right dose for yourself. I went to a naturopath and currently take 4 different supplements to make sure the methylation process works correctly. I take an Activ B specifically made for MTHFR so it includes other vitamins and minerals needed to assist the process. I take SAMe, zinc and N-Acityl-Sistien. All play their part in the methylation process and detoxing. Feel like a different person but it took a month or two to get the dosages right. Anxiety and depression went within 1 week. Read about it happening but was a bit doubting but it works. I’m a do your own research person but it has certainly paid off. I dry brush, exercise and do what I can to keep toxin free. Like all things you need to know yourself and your own body, and know when things are not right. You did make it easy to understand, so thanks Nicole.
Can men take methyl folate or b13 for depression?
Great article! I started methyl folate for anxiety but have now noticed it’s changed my menstrual cycle. I’m now more 25 days instead of 30. Have you heard of this?
Dang, just answer her question, Nicole! :/
i take b2, b12 and the vitamin c drink mix with other vitamins include some of the vitamin b types. i take other vitamin and supplements too.
what am i missing
It depends on your current health concerns. Unfortunately I can’t give advice about supplements via the blog for legal reasons.
Great article! I’m also wanting to know: is there any harm in taking methyl folate instead of folic acid if you don’t have the gene mutation? If not, it seems like everyone should just take the methyl folate instead just in case!
I recommend everyone take methylated B vitamins regardless of whether they have the mutation or not. That way they are guaranteed to be getting the most effective form of the vitamin. A caveat though – not everyone with the mutation should take methylated B12 – I also take Hydroxy and Adenosylcobalamin because I get anxiety on methylated B 12. This requires working with a functional doctor or genetic specialist who can do more specific testing and determine the right course of action for your needs.
Hope this helps!
Thank you, Nicole. I appreciate your taking the time to sift through and present the information so clearly. I’ve been dealing with an MTHFR mutation all my life but only recently have had the name and a trail to follow. I suspect cobalamine deficiency is what has always drawn me to the color/frequency of cobalt. So many intuitive connections are now being corroborated by science.
Aww, thank you so much Denise! It’s amazing what they don’t teach in school. My program goes over MTHFR in detail, have you checked it out? https://nicolejardim.com/pms/
It is the best MTHFR explanation I have ever read.
I have one set of both genes defective. I guess it means that my methylation is at 30% only?
My folic acid levels are really high. Normal is >155 and I was almost 3000. My B12 tends to be on a low side (between 300 something and 500). Since my B12 is low does it mean that my gene defect does not affect the B12 levels in me?
Your B12 should be well above 450 and symptom free. Otherwise you will need supplementation, sublingual or by shot of you don’t absorb through the stomach.
I was diagnosed with hetero so I guess MTHFR I think last July,
But was not put on an aggressive protocol except for a multi with the right stuff, But it didn’t seem to do anything. I’ve had type one diabetes for 22 years, Chronic fatigue syndrome for a decade, And thyroid problems on and off, As well as very difficult periods All of my life.
In desperation a few days ago I started taking methylated B 12 lozenges.
(I tried shots a few years ago but they did nothing for me-Not sure if it was methylated)
I’ve had so much relief in the past few days. It’s hard to even explain, Even when I feel exhausted I am calmer and resting better. I will be seeing a practitioner in May will be helping me with methylation issues, But I just couldn’t wait. I was in too much agony.
Hello! I want to get pregnant but first I want to prepare my body, what do you recommend B complex or folacal (both by Thorne of course!)????
I apologize if I missed this in the post, but what if you don’t have a defective MTHFR gene. Is it still more beneficial to ensure you are taking a methylated folate or will any folic acid do?
Hi, fantastic article. Thank you for sharing so much info. I am working on my thyroid issue and love to read your blog.
Thank you again!!!
OMG Nicole we are so much alike! I have been screaming MTHFR from the rooftops for years.
One of my sons has a double defect and once his levels of 5-MTHF were correct his little world changed… Anyone who has anxiety or depression should immediately be assessed for this too. It makes me so sad that this is overlooked so much. So happy you are on it! Your community is so lucky to have someone who researches the deep stuff. LOVE it! I will share my amazing chart with you:) you will love it.
Haha! Nic you kill me! Your story is fascinating! I have no knowledge of it’s profound effect on children and I love you for sharing this info. I agree, it’s so frustrating that this simple defect could be so overlooked and then someone gets put right onto antidepressants! 🙁 Thanks again! xoxo
Great post Nicole. I am actually homozygous for MTHFR myself and after finding out all about it I stopped recommending prenatal vitamins that have Folic Acid to my clients and found some good products with Methyl Folate and MB12. The word is spreading!
Heather! I actually didn’t know what homozygous was until I wrote this post! It’s life changing information that we need to get out there. Thanks for your comment! 🙂
Great article, Nicole. Will share with my upcoming fertility summit audience!
THanks Bridgit!!! I hope they will benefit from it!! 🙂