I read this book by Patrick Holford over the Christmas holidays. It may not be most peoples’ idea of a holiday read but I couldn’t put it down! For me it reinforced why so many of my clients see dramatic leaps forward in their health when they supplement B vitamins, Zinc and other nutrients.
Methylation (one of the more complex topics we studied in my Kinesiology training) put very simply is the chemical process by which we turn the food we eat into us – ie, our body’s cells. During methylation, methyl groups are added or taken away from other molecules in order to produce the substances we need to function, ie, to make, maintain or detoxify our cells, produce hormones, etc. We’re doing this millions of times per split second, every second of the day and night.
Homocysteine is the natural chemical we make from animal proteins we eat (specifically by removing a methyl group from the essential amino acid Methionine. Essential means it has to come from our diet.). We then add a methyl group to Homocysteine to make one or other of two chemicals which are absolutely vital to our health: S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe – pronounced sammie) OR Glutathione.
SAMe is our brain’s master tuner, it’s a natural anti-depressant and it’s anti-arthritic, liver-protecting and our main methyl donor (it gives methyl groups to other molecules to make what we need). Low SAMe would result in chronic pain such as fibromyalgia, as well as degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s.
Glutathione is our body’s best detoxifying agent, it literally prevents us from going off, or ageing. A lack of glutathione would mean an increased risk of all disease.
A high level of Homocysteine in a fasting blood test is an indicator that Methylation is not happening as it should – we’re low in methyl groups. If we don’t have methyl groups available, not only can we not make vital chemicals but we also run the risk of methyl groups being taken away from our DNA and/or not having what we need to repair our DNA. Our DNA is the blueprint of life for us. If it’s faulty, we get faulty pretty quickly. Damaged DNA = disease, especially cancer and autoimmune conditions.
So, Methionine makes Homocysteine and Homocysteine makes SAMe or Glutathione. These processes require specific nutrients (co-factors) – ie, we need certain nutrients to be present in our bodies in order to produce these vital chemicals. When we don’t have these nutrients present, we will have a high Homocysteine level and this is connected to an increased risk of the following conditions:
- heart disease
- thyroid problems
- chronic pain – arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraines
- autoimmune conditions
- digestive disorders
The main nutrients needed for methylation are B vitamins – particularly B2, B6 and B12, as well as Zinc, Betaine, Folate and Choline. Other nutrients which are helpful are Omega 3 (EPA/DHA), Garlic, Sulphur and Magnesium. This explains why vegetarians and vegans are probably always going to have high Homocysteine levels. These nutrients are not or not easily found in non-animal foods. To make it even harder to methylate, a percentage of the population has a built-in genetic fault in the MTHFR branch of methylation (ie, to make SAMe). These people need even higher levels of the nutrients.
So, guess what depletes B vitamins? Modern life, in a nutshell … stress, alcohol, convenience foods, pollution, etc.
To check if Homocysteine is relevant to your health problems and which nutrients you need, contact me to book in.