5MTHFR is not found naturally in food. 5MTHFR is the form folate is absorbed by the body into its cells. It is the most biologically active form of folate and tends to be well absorbed even with alterations in gastrointestinal pH. If taken in supplement form the Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase gene is not required for its function.
5MTHFR helps make methionine (with Vitamin b12) and starts the methionine-homocysteine cycle. It is required for the synthesis of SAMe (which is required for CoQ10, carnitine and creatine production), and glutathione which is an antioxidant and required for the detoxification processes within the body.
Folate is necessary to remove and maintain healthy levels of homocysteine (an inflammatory marker used to monitor cardio vascular health), it is required for red blood cell production (without folate we can have macrocytic anaemia due to insufficient numbers of red blood cells or insufficient haemoglobin), it is required for healthy brain chemistry (folate is used to make many of our brain chemicals) and for cell division. Hence a higher risk of spina bifida, hydrocephalus, limb defects and cervical dysplasia when folate is deficient.
A Zinc deficiency will reduce folate absorption and the oral contraceptive pill depletes folate levels.
Relevance to MTHFR
People without the MTHFR polymorphism can metabolise folic acid through the pathway described above without difficulty. However if the MTHFR polymorphism is present, then this process does not happen well. For folates to be absorbed, the active form as 5MTHFR is needed along with activated B12.The dose required for each individual differs widely and people should not self-medicate. Most practitioner’s advise avoidance from folic acid in supplementation form and added to foods with increased natural folate sources from the diet.
The next important issue is the co-factors (vitamins and minerals) required for the optimal absorption of 5MTHFR and this is the topic of our next article.
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