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Methylated Vitamins – What They Are and Why They Matter

By Jiri Kaloc

Methylated vitamins have gained significant attention in recent years, particularly in the terms of supplementation. Understanding what they are and why they matter is crucial for anyone interested in optimizing their health. This series will delve into the essence of methylated vitamins, their biological roles, benefits of supplementation, and dietary sources of these vitamins. Let’s start with the basics.

What is methylation

Before we talk about the vitamins themselves, you should understand a little bit about methylation. It’s a vital biochemical process that happens a billion times per second in the human body. This process involves the transfer of methyl groups, one carbon atom and three hydrogen atoms, from one molecule to another. Methylation is essential for regulating gene expression, maintaining DNA integrity, and controlling various molecules, including proteins, lipids, hormones, and neurotransmitters. As a result, it’s closely tied with aging and risk of various diseases and neurological disorders.

What are methylated vitamins?

Methylated vitamins are forms of vitamins that include a methyl group attached to their molecular structure. These forms are often more bioavailable and active in the body, which can be particularly beneficial for individuals with genetic variations that affect the body’s ability to methylate, add methyl groups to nutrients. The most common methylated vitamins are B vitamins such as Methylcobalamin (vitamin B12), Methylfolate (vitamin B9), or Pyridoxal phosphate (vitamin B6).

The term “methylated” often appears in the names of these nutrients, making them easy to identify. However, some essential nutrients like choline, formerly vitamin B4, and inositol, vitamin B8, which also play roles in methylation, may not explicitly carry the “methyl” prefix.

How are methylated vitamins connected to the process of methylation?

Methylated vitamins, especially vitamins B6, B9, and B12, play pivotal roles in supporting and maintaining the methylation cycle. The goal of the methylation cycle is to regulate gene expression, detoxification, and neurotransmitter synthesis by providing methyl groups for various biochemical reactions. It achieves this by converting homocysteine to methionine and subsequently producing S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), a universal methyl donor. Here is how the key B vitamins contribute:

  • Vitamin B9 provides the initial methyl group
  • Vitamin B12 helps transfer this methyl group to homocysteine to form methionine which is converted to SAMe
  • Vitamin B6 helps manage homocysteine levels, preventing its buildup and promoting conversion to the amino acid cysteine

What happens when methylation is dysregulated?

It’s easy to see that when the methylation process is impaired, it could result in a variety of different health issues. Here are some of the most notable ones.

  • Elevated homocysteine levels can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
  • Impaired methylation can affect neurotransmitter balance, contributing to neurological disorders like depression and cognitive decline.
  • Abnormal DNA methylation patterns can lead to improper gene expression, contributing to the risk of cancer and other diseases.

Methylated vitamins are essential for numerous biochemical processes in the body, particularly methylation. They play a critical role in gene expression, detoxification, and cardiovascular and neurological health. By understanding methylated vitamins and incorporating them into your diet or supplement regimen, you can do a lot to maintain good health. We will take a closer look at the benefits of methylated vitamins in the next article.