What the Heck is Methylation?

brain health healthy eating healthy living stress-free May 18, 2024

Methylation, Homocysteine and B vitamins 

Unless you studied cell biology recently, you may not have heard of Methylation–I know I hadn’t until I studied to become a holistic nutritionist.  In fact, it wasn’t a part of the curriculum back when most of us were in school, with scientists only coming to a clear understanding of its importance along with the study of epi-genetics (how genes express themselves, or not) in the early 2000’s.

Methylation ability is a critical factoring determining mental health, concentration, mood, ability to deal with stress.  The methylation cycle is a series of chemical changes that occur in the body and brain, the primary purpose of which is to:

  • regulate neurotransmitters
  • regulate genetic repair and expression
  • generate energy-rich molecules such as ATP
  • helps make phospholipids

And it turns out that Methylation is a hugely important and vital process that helps control the level of Homocysteine in the brain and body.

Why does that matter?  

Homocysteine is an amino acid (protein molecule). Vitamins B12, B6 and folate interact with it and create other proteins that your body needs, through a process called methylation. Typically, very little homocysteine stays in your blood.  However, high levels of homocysteine in your blood may be a sign that this process isn't working properly or that you're lacking certain B vitamins. 

Homocysteine is a toxic amino acid that damages the brain. It is also a biomarker for over 100 diseases, including almost all mental and neurological diseases. Probably a third of people over 60 have a level above 11µmol/l, which means their brain is shrinking. Anyone over the age of 50, and anyone with a mental or neurological health concern, should get their level tested. 

Vitamin B deficiency, plus stress and lifestyle factors can lead to poor methylation, usually indicated by high homocysteine level in the blood.

Often homocysteine is high because a person isn’t absorbing vitamin B12, which is found only in foods of animal origin (eggs, milk, meat and fish). That is why, if homocysteine is high, it is important to supplement enough (500mcg) of B12. This is also essential for vegans.

This is because B vitamins and zinc are co-factors (meaning they support the methylation process) which support the brain's neurotransmitters, especially dopamine, adrenaline, noradrenalin, serotonin.  Without enough cofactors, homocysteine builds up and worsens the symptoms

Symptoms of faulty methylation or high homocysteine include:

  • feeling unreal or disconnected
  • hearing your own thoughts
  • anxiety or inner tension
  • inability to think straight
  • good pain tolerance
  • delusions or illusions
  • loose bowels or skin problems
  • tendency to overweight
  • frequent mood swings

Supporting Methylation

  • Check homocysteine levels
  • Too much coffee, alcohol and stress will knock out B12 and raise homocysteine.  
  • Avoid smoking, alcohol, coffee, caffeinated drinks
  • Minimize stress and keep fit
  • Eating vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and greens, rich in folate, lowers homocysteine.
  • Eat plenty of fish, meat, eggs or dairy for B12
  • Keep your homocysteine low with B vitamins, supplement with Folic acid, B12, B6, B2, Zinc, TMG (Trimethylglycine); Anyone with an H score above 10 needs to supplement 20mg of B6, 400mcg of preferably methylfolate and 500µg of B12. 


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