There’s been a lot of talk recently about the methylated versions of vitamins, and if you’re wondering whether or not that might have significance to you personally, the answer is – absolutely. Defined simply, methylated vitamins are the active versions of vitamins which your body can readily make use of, while the un-methylated vitamins must go through a conversion process before your body can actually utilize them.
The problem is that much of the world’s entire population may be unable to make that conversion in their bodies because of a genetic mutation that prevents it. All humans have a gene called the MTHFR gene, and it’s the gene which is partly responsible for triggering that metabolic process which converts some vitamins into their usable state by the body.
In 2002, an ambitious undertaking called the Human Genome Project found that as much as 60% of the U.S. population had a mutation to this gene and that approximately 40% of Australian and British people had various mutations to it as well. There are a number of these mutations which can inhibit or prevent altogether the necessary conversion of un-methylated vitamins into their active and usable forms in the body.
For all individuals who have the gene abnormality, the absorption of folate and B-complex vitamins is either largely inefficient or lacking altogether. While this inability to metabolize vitamins doesn’t refer to all vitamins, it does include three of the most crucial ones, those being folate, vitamin B6, vitamin B12. For people whose bodies lack the capability to convert un-methylated vitamins into the version which is usable by the body, those vitamins remain mostly unabsorbed, and can simply build up to the point of toxicity. This discussion will focus on the differences between the methylated and un-methylated versions of the three important vitamins mentioned above.
Vitamin B9 – Folic Acid (Un-methylated) vs Methylfolate (Methylated)
Folic acid is very important during pregnancy because it contributes to the proper development and growth of the fetus. For all other adults, it’s essential for the production of red blood cells, and for maintaining healthy levels of homocysteine. Homocysteine is a compound which normally gets converted into glutathione and methionine, which are responsible for some very important body processes. Glutathione acts as a primary antioxidant and de-toxifying agent in your body, and any shortage of it can lead to increased stress and an increased buildup of toxins. A deficiency of methionine can cause all kinds of problems in the body, including free radical damage, anemia, inflammation, arteriosclerosis, and fatty liver degenerative disease.
Since many adults carry one of the several genetic abnormalities that prevent proper metabolism of folic acid into its usable state, (referred to as 5–methyltetrahydrofolate), they don’t receive the benefits of active folic acid, but instead may experience some of the health issues which develop because of a deficiency. Products such as Quatrefolic have been developed so as to be structurally similar to the active and usable form of folic acid, allowing them to completely bypass the conversion process, and to be available for use immediately by the body without any kind of metabolization.
Vitamin B6 – Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Un-methylated) vs Pyridoxal-5-Phosphate (Methylated)
In the foods we eat and in the supplements we take, vitamin B6 is always found in one of three different states, those being pyridoxal, pyridoxine hydrochloride, and pyridoxamine. When we ingest those foods or supplements, the B6 in them undergoes a conversion process in the liver in order to achieve the active form of B6 needed by the body, which is called Pyridoxal-5-Phosphate (P5P).
People who have reduced liver function, or those who have celiac’s disease, and even some senior citizens, are not able to efficiently carry out this conversion process. This means that they receive low amounts of the active, usable form of vitamin B6, and all the benefits it provides for the body. By contrast, when consuming the active version of vitamin B6 (P5P), that conversion in the liver is unnecessary, and all the normal health benefits of B6 become available immediately inside the body.
The reason this is so important is that P5P is responsible for some amazing healing functions internally. It is one of the best ways of addressing carpal tunnel syndrome, pre-menstrual syndrome, water retention, diabetic neuropathy, and other forms of nerve pain. Millions of dollars if not more, are spent annually on medical and surgical solutions to some of these problems, when in truth, greater intake of the active and usable form of vitamin B6 would provide significant relief from all of them.
Vitamin B12 – Cyanocobalamin (Un-methylated) vs Methylcobalamin (Methylated)
The basic difference between cyanocobalamin and methylcobalamin is due to just one part of a special molecule, with cyanocobalamin having a cyanide group as part of its molecular composition, and methylcobalamin having a methyl group as part of its composition. Cyanocobalamin does not exist in any living organism, and is exclusively a laboratory-manufactured product, whereas methylcobalamin does exist in nature. Unfortunately, in practically all vitamin supplements, cyanocobalamin will be the form of vitamin B12 included, because it is approximately 100 times cheaper than is methylcobalamin.
Cyanocobalamin is not usable by the body in its existing state, and the cyanide component must be stripped off, and eventually eliminated by the body before it is usable. By contrast, methylcobalamin is easily absorbed by the body, and does not need to undergo any kind of conversion process to have its health benefits available for use immediately.
The health benefits provided by methylcobalamin are numerous, and if your body is not absorbing sufficient amounts of methylcobalamin in its active and usable state, it’s possible that you could develop a vitamin B12 deficiency. When this happens, you might experience any of the following symptoms:
- excessive weakness and fatigue
- shortness of breath and chest pains
- confusion or disorientation
- memory loss
- unexplained soreness around the mouth or on the tongue
- poor reflexes
- a yellowish tinge to the skin
- a numbness or tingling in the extremities.
For the most part, people who are otherwise healthy need not worry about vitamin B12 deficiency, but anyone who has some other health condition is likely to be much more heavily impacted by vitamin B12 deficiency. People at risk of developing vitamin B12 deficiency are those who consume excessive alcohol, those who have celiac’s disease, and vegetarians. Vegetarians are more prone to developing a vitamin B12 deficiency because there is less usable vitamin B12 in plants than there is in meats.
The usable form of vitamin B12, methylcobalamin, also stays in your bloodstream much longer than does cyanocobalamin, which means it continues to deliver health benefits for a much longer period of time than does the laboratory-fabricated version of vitamin B12.
Because of all of the above benefits be sure to look for supplements that contain the methylated version of Folate as well as vitamins B6 and B12. More specifically when reading the labels look for Methylfolate (e.g. Quatrefolic), Pyridoxal-5-Phosphate (P5P), and Methylfolate.