I often come across online forums where people speak about “having MTHFR’’ as if it is some kind of condition. It isn’t. MTHFR is a gene that we all have. What they mean is that they have a SNP/s on their MTHFR gene that causes low activity. As with all SNPs, what matters is the effect it has on your biochemistry. The reason MTHFR gets so much air time 🎤 is because it impacts Methylation, a biochemical process in the body that affects cardiovascular health, neurotransmitter metabolism, oestrogen detoxification, DNA integrity and repair and controls the “switching on and off” of genes. 

Folate: your body needs to convert folate from the diet (or supplements) into the active form, Methylfolate, which is needed by the body and a vital ingredient in Methylation. Folate from the diet is converted into DHF (dihydrofolate) -> THF (tetrahydrofolate) -> and eventually 5-MTHF (5-methyltetrahydrofolate) which is the active form needed by the body (see diagram below). These conversions require B2,3 & 6 as co-factors. 🔑 Key points:

• You need to be getting enough folate in your diet / from supplements

• You need the co-factors • Alcohol reduces folate absorption

• Certain medications reduce folate

• Avoid folic acid which is the synthetic form of folate and will block folate receptors

The general consensus over the past few years has been that methylation = good and having low activity SNPs on the MTHFR gene = bad. Recently, however, I read an article that suggested that the increased prevalence of SNPs on the MTHFR gene is actually a protective evolutionary mechanism in response to the abundance of foods fortified with B9/folic acid. This seems intuitively plausible to me and I will definitely be keeping my eye out for more research on this topic.

I’d love to hear thoughts on this one… 

Links to some research on the subject:

folate, vitamin b9, folic acid, genes, MTHFR