Methyl folate, vitamin B9 and vitamin B12.
By definition a vitamin is a substance that we must get in our diet, one that the body cannot manufacture, though this is not the case with vitamin D (but thats another story).
Vitamin B12 an essential vitamin for healthy cell formation
B12 is found in higher quantities in animal proteins and dairy and to a lesser extent in plant proteins hence it is sometimes the vitamin that vegans can be at risk of being deficient in.
B12 is an essential substance that allows the formation of a number of key proteins in the body and discussed in more detail in one of our blogs.
A well known use is in the formation of red blood cells, if you are chronically low in B12 your red blood cells may be abnormal in shape and low in number affecting your capacity to carry oxygen to your cells. Brain fog and fatigue is a symptom of low oxygen and therefore low energy production.
B12 has many other important functions in the body including the important process of methylation. This process involves everything from turning on and off genes to detoxification.
Folate and vitamin B9 are the same thing, but what does it do?
Along with vitamin B12, folate (vitamin B9) is essential for the healthy formation of many types of cells although commonly linked with red blood cells it is also important for the immune and energy forming systems in the body..
Folate is derived from the latin folium meaning leaves as it was first found in spinach leaves.
As it is a water soluble vitamin the body struggles to store it so if you are deficient you may need to take a daily supplement. In times of high cell turnover such as pregnancy, intense exercise and illness an increased dose is recommended.
Some people lack an enzyme to enable them to turn synthetic B9/ folic acid in to active folate so alternative forms of supplementation such as methyltetrahydrafolate need to be taken instead. In some populations like Mexicans this defective enzyme is found in 40% of the population.
Although some countries like the U.S. recognise the importance of folate they actually supplement their bread, they use folic acid which is actually useless to large parts of the population.
Methyl folate (L-5-MTHF, L-5methyltetrahydrofolate) is the best form of folate for the body. Folic acid is a synthetic version that requires conversion in the body to methyl folate. The problem is that up to 40% (depending on your ethnic background) struggle to do this in a meaningful way.
Methyl folate works alongside vitamin B12 and is an essential vitamin for multiple pathways in the body:
Normal red blood cell formation
Heart health, it helps to reduce homocysteine
Reduces the risk of low birth weight and neural tube defects in pregnancy
Essential for detoxifying harmful compounds in the body
Essential for normal cell division
Essential for normal immune function
Low levels of active methyl folate can have a significant effect on mental health and depression.
Methylation and health
A process called methylation is essential to our general well-being and is involved in many of our important body processes. In chemical terms it means adding a methyl group CH3 to add another molecule this alters the function.
Abnormal methylation is a feature of cancer, heart disease and ageing and its importance in healthy ageing cannot be understated. It is essential for the formation of healthy DNA in the body.
60-80% of our cells undergo methylation and folate B12 and B6 although only needed in small doses are vital for this process to happen properly.
There is a strong genetic variation in the ability to methylate healthily and if identified as having an abnormal MTHFR gene then it certainly would be astute to check levels and if low alter diet and possibly add supplementation.
How does humanpeople check B12, folate and methylation?
Blood tests: We feel that these are so important B12 and folate are 2 of the blood tests that we screen for in our biomarkers screen.
Gene tests: We also check for some important genes that can affect the efficiency of an important enzyme called MTHFR. Two important genes can affect by 40-80% and are linked with chronic diseases.
Correcting levels: Altering diet, oral high quality supplements or in severe cases vitamin injections can be required.