The methylation cycle, is a complex biochemical system that is very important as it occurs within every cell of our body and takes place billions of times every second. It is responsible for many reactions within the body including aiding the repair to your DNA on a daily basis, it also manages homocysteine. Homocysteine is an amino acid, when it is not regulated properly it becomes elevated and can cause various adverse reactions including damage to inner arterial lining (endothelium) which can result in cardiovascular disease. Methylation also helps recycle molecules needed for detoxification (Glutathione). Without these significant activities happening the body cannot regulate or react properly and the knock on effect can have numerous health implications. To keep methylation running smoothly you need optimal levels of bioavailable B vitamins. Without enough of these B vitamins methylation breaks down and the results can be catastrophic.
Low methylation levels are not only associated with depression but also cardiovascular disease, birth defects, downs syndrome, miscarriages, osteoporosis, diabetes, cancer, behavioural disorders, Autism, dementia, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, stroke and some serious health problems, some of which can be debilitating and/or life threatening.
What does bioavailable mean?
In order for the methylation cycle to function properly these B vitamins have to be in their bioavailable form, namely methylcobalamin, 5-methyltetrahydrofolate and Pyridoxal-5-Phosphate. In order for the body to convert these vitamins into their bioavailable form the methylation cycle needs to be in excellent condition. If the cycle is not functional the body cannot do this, in this instance the body would need to supplement these vitamins in their already bioavailable form, this would then enable the methylation cycle to start working again.
The body makes various neurotransmitters out of amino acids, for this to happen, one or more methyl groups attach themselves to the amino acid, this is the basis of methylation.
So an example of how one part of the methylation cycle works. Observing the diagram above, the methyl group attaches itself to the molecule named SAMe, it continues on its journey where it is utilized, here it becomes a neurotransmitter and this is how methylation takes place. So once the methyl group leaves SAMe the molecule is no longer SAMe, it has now become a molecule called homocysteine.
Homocysteine then recycles itself back again by adding another methyl group, turning the molecule back into SAMe again and this action is continuously repeated but this can only happen if the body has sources of enough boiavaliable B vitamins without these essential nutrients the body cannot complete the cycle so therefore cannot recycle the homocysteine back into SAMe so the cycle can no longer function.
What happens then is that there becomes a build up of homeocysteine because it cannot be recycled, and therefore a shortage of SAMe, subsequently there becomes a short fall of neurotransmitters, the ones in question being serotonin and norepinephrine which are known as the anti-depressant neurotransmitter, so the knock on effect is depression.
This is why supplementing with those vitamins and minerals can assist SAMe circulating and keeping the methylation cycle working optimally and relieving the symptoms of depression. This is just one part of the whole methylation cycle.
Poor nutrition, lifestyle will result in low methylation and this includes hereditary deficiencies too (so if your Mother was deficient in a certain B vitamin, then that would pass down to you) this impacts not only the neurotransmitters but the whole body in a vast array of areas. Low methylation levels are not only associated with depression but also cardiovascular disease, birth defects, downs syndrome, miscarriages, osteoporosis, diabetes, cancer, behavioural disorders, Autism, dementia, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, stroke and some serious health problems, some of which can be debilitating and/or life threatening.
High levels of homocysteine need to be fixed not covered up but unfortunately modern medicine has not caught up and someone suffering from depression for example would be given anti depressants. Anti depressants will not address the high levels of homocysteine or improve methylation.
Methylenetetrahydrofolate reducatase (MTHFR)
The MTHFR gene provides information to make the enzyme called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. This enzyme plays an important role in processing amino acids. Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase enzyme converts one form of folate into the most bioavailable, active and usable form of folate for every single cell of the body. MTHFR takes folic acid and changes it so the body can use it. Folic acid itself, is a synthetic form of folate and if MTHFR is implicated, the body cannot break it down into its active forms so it builds up in the system causing damage. Methylfolate (which is its common name) performs two critical tasks within the body, firstly it helps produce neurotransmitters in the brain, neurotransmitters permit us to do various tasks, for instance to learn, sleep and express emotions. When Methylfolate levels are low, then your neurotransmitter would also be low, which can cause certain conditions including but not limited to depression, addictive personality, anxiety, ADHD, insomnia & learning disorders.
Methlyfolate is responsible for making the molecule SAMe as mentioned above, SAMe is responsible for regulating over 200 enzymes, with decreased levels of SAMe, there is a high risk of the same health conditions as mentioned before in this article. This is because the Methylation cycle is like a finely tuned engine, when one part is not functional or functioning optimally then it can throw the whole cycle out making the person susceptible to various illnesses, some which are life threatening.
There are over 50 varients of the MTHFR mutations, part of the enzyme is either part or fully missing or not working properly, some have been switched off completely (inactivated). These mutations impair the function of the MTHFR enzyme and therefore cause a decrease in neurotransmitters and SAMe.