Published On: Tue, Aug 27th, 2013

Methylation: Critical Biochemical Reaction For Your Health

mentylationMethylation: Critical Biochemical

Reaction For Your Health

(that you have probably never heard about!)

by Rob Lamberton, B.Sc.

If you were to ask almost anyone in the general public what methylation is and why it is critical to your health, you would probably get blank stares and probably comments like; “I don’t have a clue what you are talking about.”

Ask any progressive integrative Health Care Professional (Functional Medicine Medical Doctors, Naturopathic Physicians, etc.), the same question, and they will respond that it’s one of the most critical biochemical processes in our body and that it has a significant impact on our quality of health and the development of chronic, degenerative diseases.

Methylation: What is it?

So- let’s start with some basic biochemistry and a definition of methylation:

In simple terms, it is a process in which certain chemicals called ‘methyl groups’ are added to various constituents of proteins, DNA, and other molecules.  These are needed to keep them in good ‘working’ condition.”1

Well that is fine, but what does it mean: and more importantly, how does it impact our health?

If your body’s methylation is not working at an optimal level, it will translate into many different health problems and will accelerate your aging process.2

Compromised methylation function will impact negatively on how different genes in our genetic structure function.

What is a gene?

A gene is the basic physical and functional unit of heredity. Genes, which are made up of DNA, act as instructions to make molecules called proteins. In humans, genes vary in size from a few hundred DNA bases to more than 2 million bases. The Human Genome Project has estimated that humans have between 20,000 and 25,000 genes.

Every person has two copies of each gene, one inherited from each parent. Most genes are the same in all people, but a small number of genes (less than 1% of the total), are slightly different between people. Alleles are forms of the same gene with small differences in their sequence of DNA bases. The small differences contribute to each person’s unique physical features.

geneGenes are made up of DNA. Each chromosome contains many genes.3

One of the key genes that can impact our level of methylation function is called the “MTHFR gene” (methylenetetrahydrofolate – and an associated enzyme that it produces: methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase).

Okay: enough of the biochemistry! How can it affect our health?

Compromised MTHFR function (typically due to mutations, which we’ll discuss shortly), has been documented to potentially impact the following health issues:

1. Autism
2. Addictions: smoking, drugs, alcohol
3. Down’s syndrome
4. Miscarriages
5. Pulmonary embolisms
6. Depression in Post-Menopausal Women
7. Schizophrenia
8. Fibromyalgia
9. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
10. Chemical Sensitivity
11. Parkinson’s
12. Irritable Bowel Syndrome
13. Pre-eclampsia
14. Stroke
15. Spina bifida
16. Esophageal Squamous cell carcinoma
17. Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
18. Vascular Dementia
19. Bipolar disorder
20. Colorectal Adenoma
21. Idiopathic male infertility
22. Blood clots
23. Rectal cancer
24. Meningioma
25. Glioma
26. Congenital Heart Defects
27. Infant depression via epigenetic processes caused by maternal depression
28. Deficits in childhood cognitive development
29. Gastric Cancer
30. Migraines with aura
31. Low HDL
32. High homocysteine
33. Post-menopausal breast cancer
34. Atherosclerosis
35. Oral Clefts
36. Type 1 Diabetes
37. Epilepsy
38. Primary Closed Angle Glaucoma
39. Alzheimer’s
40. Tetralogy of Fallot
41. Decreased telomere length
42. Potential drug toxicities: methotrexate, anti-epileptics
43. Cervical dysplasia
44. Increased bone fracture risk in post-menopausal women
45. Multiple Sclerosis
46. Essential Hypertension
47. Differentiated Thyroid Carcinoma
48. Prostate Cancer
49. Premature Death
50. Placental Abruption
51. Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack)
52. Methotrexate Toxicity
53. Nitrous Oxide Toxicity
54. Heart Murmurs
55. Tight Anal Sphincters
56. Tongue Tie
57. Midline Defects (many are listed above)
58. Behcet’s Disease
59. Ischemic Stroke in Children
60. Unexplained Neurologic Disease
61. Asthma
62. Shortness of Breath
63. Bladder Cancer
64. Anecephaly

This list is extensive: and is being added to on an ongoing basis!


So what affects our methylation?

Well-we all know about the importance of lifestyle to our health; sleep, stress, exposure to toxins, good quality food, etc. However, there is another major factor that most people do not know about that plays a significant role in our overall health– and it is specifically related to methylation, which we are discussing.


We are all genetic mutants!

The incidence of genetic mutations in the general human population is widespread and significantand this plays out in a significant way with respect to methylation in particular, our health in general, and the potential development of chronic, degenerative disease processes.

Without getting into more biochemistry, putting it very simply, we can have either a single or double mutation in our genetic structure, (specifically nucleotides, which are, in essence, the building blocks of genetic material such as our DNA). When we have these mutations, it can affect the function of our biochemical processes, (such as methylation).


How prevalent are these mutations?

Well this is where it can get really significant: for example, with some significant genes that affect methylation…(two in particular are of note and are referred to as C677T and A1298C)

In the case of a single mutation,this is present in approximately 40 % of the general population. For a double mutation, this is present in approximately 30% of the population. But where it gets potentially serious is how this affects methylation; in the case of the single mutation for instance, it decreases normal methylation function down to 50–70 % of normal.

For the double mutation, it decreases methylation function down to 7–10 % of normal function.5

Add to this the stressors of modern society, exposure to toxins, lack of sleep and exercise, poor quality food… no wonder so many people are struggling with a lack of energy, and are totally stressed out and dealing with serious health issues!


What can be done about it?

Integrative Health Care Professionals have seen a dramatic shift in their patients during the last ten years or so: it used to be that if people started addressing their stress levels, got adequate sleep and exercise, started eating the right food and taking the right supplements, decreased their exposure to toxins etc., then their health would bounce back.


This is no longer the case!

Our reserves are now so depleted due to the issues listed above (and others), that people are not bouncing back – and it is becoming increasingly necessary to identify these mutations in people and take special measures to help people regain their health and maintain it.

What this impacts is epigenetic expression (i.e., turning on or off good or bad genes).

How can you find out more about your personal genetic mutations–how they may be affecting your health?

Well, this is where it becomes really excitingand istruly the future of individualized medicine. This is real cutting edge stuff and very few Health Care Professionals are working with this yetbut most will be within 5–10 years.

The sequencing of the human genome several years ago was the big game changer. The technology has now developed to the point whereby with just a small, simple, sample of spit, a lab can now analyze for genetic mutations and tendencies towards health issues; (tendencies you remember, because we can switch on or off, good or bad genes based upon our lifestyle, supplements, etc.–and it is typically “groups” of many genes that are involved in this process.)

Choosing the right supplements to take in view of your personal genetic mutations is critical in this processas you may possibly be consuming supplements that are damaging to your health!

(Dr. Sherrill Sellman, N.D. just did a great article on this topic of genetic (genomic) testing published in this magazine: The Age of Personal Nutritional Genomics Rewriting Your Genetic ExpressionIt is definitely worth reading!)

The new paradigm of health is no longer limited to eating the right foods for good health, but rather about;Feeding your genes the right food to keep them (and you), healthy!

Welcome to the new health paradigm



  1. Warren Matthew, Healthier Talk. 2008 November 23 Methylation: A Simple Explanation Retrieved from:
  2. Warren Matthew, Healthier Talk. 2008 November 23 Methylation: A Simple Explanation Retrieved from:
  3. Dr. Ben Lynch, N.D. 2011 September 7 MTHFR Mutations and the Conditions They Cause Retrieved from:
  4. Genetics Home Reference. 2013 August 12 What Is a Gene? Retreived from:
  5. Dr. Stephen Smith, M.D. MTHFR Related Health Conditions (n.d.) Retrieved from:



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