After using the 23andMe test for figuring out if I had any polymorphisms in MTHFR, I freaked out. I found out that I was homozygous for C677T (2 variants for C677T)! For those of you not familiar with polymorphism and MTHFR, being homozygous for C677T means that my folate metabolism ability could be as low as 40%, increasing my odds for all types of conditions I listed below.
Fortunately, I also got tested for my homocysteine levels at the same time. For those of you not familiar with homocysteine, it is an amino acid associated with inflammatory conditions (when high) and methylation levels (what modifies the genes, proteins, and fats in your body). It turned out that my homocysteine levels were very low, so what gives?!
After doing more research on B9 (folate) and studying nutrition, I realized that MTHFR is not the only big player that impacts the levels of folate, methylation, inflammation, and homocysteine; dietary and lifestyle practices are as important too. This information wasn't a surprise to me. At the same, the conditions associated with the MTHFR polymorphisms and the hype it was getting at the time had me worried that I was doom to feeling like crap for the rest of my life.
Thank goodness genes are not the only factor for health, especially since I cannot change the cards I have! With an appropriate diet - filled with whole foods, dark leafy greens, and a lifestyle that manages my stress, I have been able to modify how my genes function (epigenetics) and minimize the impact of being homozygous for C677T! This may have been why my homocysteine levels were so low. Woohoo for epigenetics!
For more information on folate, check out the rest of this article.
What is B9?
- Family of B9 vitamins
- Hydrophilic (Water soluble)
- B9 vitamins found in food are called folates (ex. 5-methyltetrahydrofolate)
- Folic acid is form of B9 and not found in food; it is a synthetic, mostly found in supplements or fortified foods
- A one-carbon donor
- Needed for making nucleotides from scratch
- Needed for making vitamin B12-dependent methionine
- Needed for the production of RNA and DNA
- Mammals can’t make folate from scratch, only bacteria
- It requires highly specific transporters for intestinal absorption and for it to travel to the rest of the body
What is it good for?
- With the help of other B vitamins (especially B12), folate can reduce high levels of homocysteine, which is associated with heart disease, mood disorders, and other inflammatory conditions.
- It can facilitate methyl group transfer, leading to methylation, and gene modification.
Low levels of folate in the body are associated with what?
- Cardiovascular disease
- Megaloblastic anemia
- Neurological disorders
- Fetal abnormalities when pregnant women are deficient in folate
- Impaired nucleotide biosynthesis
- Impaired repair of DNA damage
- DNA hypomethylation that leads to errors in oncogene (genes related tumor) expression
- Hypermethylation that leads to deactivating protective genes (ex. tumor suppressors)
Best Dietary Sources
- Dark green leafy vegetables
- Cruciferous vegetables
- Brewer’s Yeast
Recommended form of nutrient to use as supplementation
- Folate from the diet is best, but if not possible take a bioavailable version from supplements.
- RDA for Adults is 400 mcg DFE
- RDA for women who are pregnant and lactating is 600/500 mcg DFEs
- The folic acid molecule is 50% less bioavailable than folate found in food
- Variants in genes (ex. C677T) associated with MTHFR (an enzyme) impacts folate metabolism and 'may' impact methylation capacity and homocysteine levels. There is conflicting research whether or not to test for polymorphism because there are other factors that may have a bigger impact on homocysteine levels and methylation (ex. stress management and taking the appropriate amount of bioavailable folate).
Conditions associated with low folate
- Some medications: Antacids, antibiotics, anticonvulsants, sulfasalazine, and metformin.
- Alcoholism, malabsorption syndromes, low dietary intake of folate or choline.
Bauman College (2014) NC106.5 Lecture - Micronutrients, Lecture 5 - The Water - Soluble Vitamins - Vitamin C Family & B-complex. Retrieved from http://dashboard.baumancollege.org/pluginfile.php/ 10259/mod_resource/content/5/FON_Materials/106/Lecture/pdf/ 106_5_Handout_WaterSolVitBC_021414_LS.pdf
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