Power Of L-Methylfolate

Methylfolate, though often overlooked, offers a myriad of protective benefits ranging from addressing depression to promoting cardiovascular health. Here’s a comprehensive overview of this supplement that has largely remained under the radar until now.

What is Methylfolate

While many are familiar with folic acid or folate, methylfolate may be unfamiliar to most. Essentially, methylfolate represents a more natural and readily usable form of folate within the body. Unlike folate or folic acid, which require conversion by the gene and enzyme MTHFR to become active, methylfolate is already in its active form, known as L-methylfolate, upon consumption.

Opting for methylfolate ensures a more efficient supply of usable folate to the body, bypassing the need for further internal conversion processes. Moreover, individuals with a gene mutation affecting the MTHFR enzyme may experience challenges in converting folic acid or folate into methylfolate. This genetic variation often goes unnoticed, resulting in inadequate folate uptake and potentially leading to an accumulation of folic acid in the body, associated with various health concerns.

Essentially, choosing methylfolate is consistently the superior option.

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Is there a Distinction Between a Folate and Methylfolate Deficiency?

Theoretically, there should be no discernible difference between a folate and methylfolate deficiency, given that the body converts folate or its synthetic counterpart, folic acid, into the methylated form. However, the reality is more complex, as not everyone can effectively convert ingested folate into the required form.

Folate undergoes conversion to L-5-methylfolate with the assistance of an enzyme called MTHFR. Conversely, folic acid, the synthetic form of folate, necessitates up to four conversions to attain the L-5-methylfolate state.

A notable percentage of individuals harbor a genetic mutation that inhibits the proper synthesis of 5-MTHF (active methylfolate) via MTHFR. Consequently, deficiencies and associated symptoms may occur despite adequate dietary intake of folate or supplementation with folic acid. Hence, it’s plausible to experience a methylfolate deficiency even when the body ingests sufficient folate to meet daily requirements.

Moreover, folate deficiency can sometimes obscure a vitamin B12 deficiency by masking the effects of megaloblastic anemia. This type of anemia, caused by a lack of B12, can be partially camouflaged by folate supplementation. However, supplementation with methylfolate does not have the same effect, making it easier to differentiate between deficiencies in B9 or B12.

Why Does the Body Need Methylfolate?

Folate, or methylfolate, serves as Vitamin B9, a vital substance the body cannot produce on its own. While leafy greens like kale and spinach are natural sources of this vitamin, many individuals do not obtain sufficient amounts through diet alone, necessitating methylfolate supplementation.

Methylfolate plays a crucial role in several bodily functions. Firstly, it aids in the production of DNA and RNA, making it particularly important during pregnancy. Additionally, methylfolate helps reduce the risk of neural tube defects in infants, which can lead to conditions like spina bifida and brain damage.

Collaborating with vitamins B12 and B6, methylfolate contributes to red blood cell formation, maintenance of healthy iron levels, and regulation of homocysteine levels in the blood, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease.

What Constitutes a Folate Deficiency?

A folate deficiency occurs when your dietary intake fails to provide an adequate amount of folate. It’s recommended that an average adult consume at least 400 micrograms of folate or folic acid (the synthetic form of folate) to prevent deficiency, while pregnant and lactating women are advised to intake 600 micrograms.

Insufficient consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables, or fortified grains can lead to a deficiency in folate.

Additionally, conditions such as celiac disease or Crohn’s disease, which impair nutrient absorption, can contribute to folate deficiency. Genetic conditions that hinder the conversion of folate into its bioavailable form, methylfolate, as well as side effects of certain medications and excessive alcohol consumption, are also potential causes of folate deficiency.

What Are the Signs of Low Methylfolate Levels?

Given the relative obscurity of methylfolate, individuals may experience symptoms of low methylfolate levels without realizing the underlying cause.

In women, insufficient methylfolate levels may manifest in fertility-related issues. Low methylfolate levels can disrupt estrogen metabolism, leading to hormonal imbalances and symptoms such as heavy periods, fibroids, endometriosis, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Furthermore, low methylfolate levels may contribute to infertility or recurrent miscarriage, warranting testing for the MTHFR gene mutation.

Research increasingly underscores the significance of methylfolate for healthy brain function. This is attributed to its direct influence on the production and metabolism of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, noradrenaline, and adrenaline, which impact mood regulation. Individuals grappling with depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder may benefit from methylfolate supplementation. Moreover, elevated homocysteine levels associated with methylfolate deficiency may impair memory function, potentially increasing the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Low methylfolate levels have also been associated with nonspecific symptoms, often overlooked due to their ambiguity. Fatigue is a common symptom of low methylfolate levels, alongside deficiencies in other essential vitamins and minerals like B6, B12, magnesium, and zinc, which can compromise the function of the thyroid, nervous system, and adrenal gland, resulting in fatigue.

Various other symptoms may also partly stem from inadequate methylfolate levels. While some symptoms may have alternative causes, trying a methylfolate supplement could yield notable improvements. Individuals with allergies or skin issues such as hay fever and eczema, as well as those experiencing congestion and a runny nose without a specific cause, may find relief with methylfolate supplementation. Additionally, individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) may experience improved symptoms with methylfolate intake, as inflammatory conditions can deplete essential vitamins and minerals, necessitating supplementation to maintain overall well-being.

Signs and Symptoms of Methylfolate Deficiency

When your body struggles to convert folate or folic acid into methylfolate, you may experience a range of symptoms, including:

  • Persistent fatigue or tiredness, even after adequate rest.
  • Headaches or dizziness.
  • Neurological issues such as tingling, burning sensations (“pins and needles”), numbness, particularly in the hands and feet.
  • Mental health challenges like depression, impaired judgment, or cognitive and memory issues.
  • Unexplained weight loss accompanied by abdominal discomfort and gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Many of these symptoms are characteristic of megaloblastic anemia, which can result from deficiencies in vitamin B9 (folate) or B12. Your healthcare provider will often conduct tests to check for these deficiencies if you’re diagnosed with anemia.

Less common symptoms of methylfolate deficiency may include:

  • Tachycardia (rapid heartbeat) or tachypnea (fast breathing).
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Mouth ulcers, cracks in the corners of the mouth, or tongue sores.
  • Heart murmur.
  • Exfoliative dermatitis, a condition causing reddening and peeling of the skin.
  • Petechiae, small purple-brown spots under the skin resulting from bleeding.

Additionally, children may exhibit neurological signs indicative of a nutritional deficiency.

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Who is at Risk for a Folate or Methylfolate Deficiency?

Methyl Life Supplements: Supporting Specific Needs

Individuals with Malabsorptive Disorders

The prevalence of malabsorptive disorders such as celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease is on the rise, yet even with a diagnosis, ensuring adequate nutrient intake can remain a challenge.

Those grappling with conditions like celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, or rare disorders such as tropical sprue may find themselves deficient in folate. In fact, research indicates that up to 20% to 60% of patients with inflammatory bowel disease exhibit folate deficiency.

Individuals with the MTHFR Polymorphism

Certain mutations in the MTHFR gene can hinder the production of the enzyme necessary to convert dietary folate into methylfolate. While this mutation is most commonly found in Hispanics, it also affects many Asians and Caucasians.

Remarkably, up to half of the global population may carry a variation in the MTHFR gene. To ensure adequate intake of vitamin B9 for optimal health, supplementation with 5-methyl-THF, the active form of folic acid, may be essential.

Individuals Battling Alcoholism or Alcohol Use Disorders

Alcohol consumption accelerates the breakdown and elimination of folate from the body, impeding absorption. This deficiency can persist despite apparent dietary or supplemental folate intake.

A 2008 study revealed that even moderate alcohol consumption over a two-week period led to lower serum concentrations of folate and B12 in otherwise healthy men.

Women of Childbearing Age

A diverse range of individuals may be susceptible to folate or methylfolate deficiency. Increased risk factors include the following categories:

Compared to men, women between their early 20s and mid-40s face a higher likelihood of experiencing deficiencies in these vital B vitamins. Deficient women in this age group are at greater risk of giving birth to infants with neural tube defects or abnormalities in the brain and spine.

Hence, it’s crucial for women in this demographic to ensure they consume at least 400 micrograms of folate daily and ideally up to 1,000 micrograms.

If planning pregnancy and experiencing any symptoms of folate or methylfolate deficiency, seeking medical evaluation is imperative. Testing by a healthcare provider can include assessing 5-MTHF blood serum levels, homocysteine levels, and more.

Pregnant Women

Due to the risk of birth defects and the heightened nutritional requirements to support maternal health, pregnant women should prioritize folate supplementation. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends daily prenatal supplements containing at least 600 micrograms of folate.

Causes of Folate or Methylfolate Deficiency

If you’re experiencing symptoms of folate deficiency or have low serum levels of B9, several common factors could be contributing:

Dietary Insufficiency: Your diet may lack adequate folate sources. While many bread products and cereals in the U.S. are fortified with folic acid, you might not be consuming these items, as well as fresh fruits, leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds, and meats that naturally contain folate.

Genetic Mutation: A genetic condition known as MTHFR mutation can lead to lower levels of a crucial enzyme required to convert dietary folate into a usable form. Testing can determine if you have this genetic predisposition.

Disease-related Malabsorption: Certain diseases can impair nutrient absorption, leading to insufficient folate uptake despite adequate dietary intake.

Medication Interference: Some medications, such as phenytoin (Dilantin), trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, methotrexate, metformin, warfarin, sulfasalazine, and others, can hinder the body’s ability to absorb B vitamins, including folate.

Alcohol Consumption: Regular moderate to high alcohol consumption can interfere with folate absorption and utilization. While the occasional drink may not significantly impact folate levels, consistent consumption, such as 8 ounces of wine or equivalent daily, may impede folate processing in the body.

 

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