Methylation and Mood: Why Folic Acid, B-12, and SAMe are good for you

Methylation reactions are of great scientific interest because they represent one interface between nutrient and genetic expression. The process of methylation is simple: a group of atoms called a “methyl group” – one carbon atom with three hydrogen atoms hooked on to it — are added to molecules in the human body. This process has huge and complex effects all over the body, particularly in the brain! There is a lot of scientific evidence that methylation effects mood, and can help with depression. It is also possible that poor methylation is a factor in Alzheimer’s disease. Overall, having a good methylation process is very important for a healthy and happy brain.

One of the main methyl donors in the body is SAMe, which has been used as a natural antidepressant because as a methyl donor, it improves mood. In our bodies, to efficiently make SAMe, we must have adequate stores of Vitamin B-12, Folic acid and magnesium. Taking any of these supplements can increase methylation!

There are a couple of straight forward ways to tell if you methylation is deficient on standard laboratory tests that you doctor may order. The first is checking the size of your red blood cells on a complete blood count – a CBC. If the size of your red blood cells is out of range, or even in the upper end of the range, that is a sign of deficiency of Folic acid and/or Vitamin B-12. You can find indications of the red blood cell size in a marker called MCV (mean corpuscular volume) and, to a slightly lesser degree, MCH (mean corpuscular hemoglobin). If you MCV is over 100, or even if it is 97 or so, this is usually a sign of B-12 and/or folate deficiency, which would cause a problem with methylation. If your MCH if over 32, or even moving in that direction, there might be cause for concern.

A second marker is elevated homocysteine. This test is ordered less frequently. Elevated homocysteine occurs when there is a deficiency of Folic acid, B-12, and/or Vitamin B-6, and indicates a problem with methylation. Elevated homocysteine is considered a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Many labs will says that a level of 12 is normal, but from a more refined health orientation, I would like your levels to be around 8.

If either of these signs are sub-optimal, begin taking Vitamin B-12 and Folic acid. For B-12, you must use a sub-lingual (under-the-tongue) pill. My favorite preparation is Jarrow’s Methyl-B-12 5000, which is 5000 mcg, and other than having B-12 injections, is the best way to absorb Vitamin B-12. Increase your level of Folic acid up to 2000 mcg. In certain instances, taking a special kind of Folic acid, called 5-methyltetrahydrofolate, may be necessary. Notice if there is an increase in mood over a few weeks. If you want to further increase your methylation capacity, you can add SAMe to this mixture. You take SAMe 400 – 800 mg per day – in an enteric coated pill on an empty stomach. It is important to keep taking the Vitamin B-12 and Folic acid in tandem. Do not add SAMe if your homocysteine is high until the B-12 and Folic acid have lowered it. If you take SAMe and do not have enough B-12 and Folic acid, you will actually increase your homocysteine, therefore it is important to take them together.

Category : Amino Acids &Articles &Diet &Vitamins &Yoga Posted on December 30, 2011

7 Comments → “Methylation and Mood: Why Folic Acid, B-12, and SAMe are good for you”


  1. MARY
    4 years ago

    Thank you for writing the article. I have been looking for some answers about Sam-E in relation to homcysteine levels. Your article concisely explained the rationale behind supplementing enough B12, Folic acid and Magnesium while taking Sam-E to prevent increase in homocysteine levels.

    Reply

  2. Randy
    4 years ago

    Hi Jan,

    I read that taking B12 in the form of methylcobalamin “could readily methylate mercury in the body, i.e. transform it into its more harmful form of methylmercury and when methylated mercury is much more easily absorbed to the blood and then transformed to mercury ions which are an intensely toxic form of mercury”. This is at whale.to/w/b12.html. The sources sited are Heavy Metal Bulletin 1999, Doctor Hal Huggins and the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology in the USA. I found it with the search terms, methylcobalamin amalgam. Is this True? Please help me. I have high homocysteine levels but am afraid to take methylcobalamin because of this article. Thank you very much Jan.

    Best regards.

    Randy
    [email protected]

    Reply

    • Jan Hanson
      3 years ago

      Well, I certainly do not know everything. But I work with a number of integrative physicians, and I have never heard of anyone having this concern. And we are all concerned about the high homocysteine. Ithink you are really pretty safe taking the methylcobalamin. And perhaps, you could work with someone to address any mercury concerns you might have.

      Reply

  3. Hermes
    3 years ago

    “If you take SAMe and do not have enough B-12 and Folic acid, you will actually increase your homocysteine, therefore it is important to take them together.”

    Literally together, as in at the same time? Or do you mean concurrently? I take folic acid with my iron tablet at night (my MD said I was low).

    Reply

  4. Chris Barker
    3 years ago

    In the article you recommend up to 2000 mcg of Folic acid. If I take the 5-methyltetrahydrofolate, would I still take up to 2000 mcg?

    Reply

    • Jan Hanson
      3 years ago

      In my practice, I am able to test people to determine the appropriate dosages of these vitamins. But without doing that, I would say that 1000 µg to 2000 µg is a normal range. Folic acid In all it’s forms is water-soluble. Some people may be sensitive to too much folic acid, and they would know that if they took it and felt worse afterwards. But it is not going to be damaging.

      Reply

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