Article updated on 07/21/2019
During methylation, a “methyl group” (one atom of carbon and 3 of hydrogen: CH3) is transferred from one molecule in the body to another. This reaction is very useful. It triggers many different metabolic reactions (several hundred) in our body.
It is one of the main pillars of longevity. Without it, the permanent repair of our DNA cannot be done properly, nor that of our damaged cells which could become cancerous.
The lipid methylation (fats) plays a role in maintaining the flexibility and permeability of cell membranes, thus allowing good exchanges between cells.
Methylation allows the production of glutathioneone of the major antioxidants and detoxifiers, but also coenzyme Q10of the carnitine, of the cysteine, taurine…
It intervenes in the brain for the production of several neurotransmitters such as adrenaline, acetylcholine, serotonin, melatonin…
In the liver, it participates in the reactions of hepatic detoxification and in particular, it converts estrogen into a less carcinogenic form.
At last, the methylation of our DNA is a major aspect of this process. It makes it possible to modulate the expression of the genes of our chromosomes. It’s’epigenetics (see our article here): our way of functioning is not fixed by our heredity but our genes can express themselves or not thanks to this process of methylation among others. Thus, contrary to what we have long believed, the influence of our genetics can be modified according to our environment, our food, medicines, our lifestyle, our stress, our mind, etc. These environmental factors would even count 3 times more than our heredity.
Methylation and aging
Global methylation activity declines with age. This slowing down is thought to contribute to aging and the development of age-related degenerative diseases.
Diseases linked to poor methylation
A significant drop in overall methylation can result in accelerated aging but also in the appearance of cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, depressive states, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, fibromyalgia, hepatics, etc.
Methylation and longevity
Methylation helps DNA retain the length of its telomereswhich is also correlated with longevity.
On the other hand, it was recently shown that the observation of the methyl groups attached to our DNA could define our biological age and be predictive of our longevity. Thus, blood tests are now offered.
Signs of poor methylation
Homocysteine is produced in our cells in the “methylation cycle” (see diagram) from the methionine (an essential amino acid) which will first turn into SAMe (S Adenosyl Methionine) to be able to free itself from its methyl group. Homocysteine is a toxic amino acid that should not be too high in the blood.
Normally, homocysteine is then converted to glutathione or converted back to methionine by re-methylation. A blood level of homocysteine that is too high can be indicative of incorrect methylation. It is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases but also of neurological disorders (even cancer).
Other markers of a lack of methylation are:
– too high blood histamine level,
– too large red blood cells,
– high methylmalonic acid (in the blood or urine)…
Factors that decrease methylation in the body
– the lack of vegetables in the diet which leads to deficiencies in vitamins B6, B12, betaine and folates involved in methylation.
– the tobacco inactivates vitamin B6
– the problems ofdigestive absorption and food intolerances
– excess animal protein which leads to an excessive intake of methionine. Indeed, methionine is one of the 8 essential amino acids and it promotes methylation. However, too much intake will, conversely, prevent the conversion of homocysteine which will then accumulate. Here again, you need the right dose, especially since an excess of methionine or SAMe will lead to an excess of methylation which is not good either.
– inflammation and chronic infections: they consume a lot of methyl groups
– some medications : antacids, contraceptives, methotrexate…
– the excess of copper and the mercury that interfere with methylation
– products toxic for the liver…
To optimize its methylation
A healthy body makes lots of methyl groups and no special supplementation is needed.
Some foods are rich in methyl groups: quinoa, beets, cooked dark green vegetables such as spinach or broccoli, egg yolk, lamb, chicken, etc.
Have a sufficient supply of sulphur: there is some in garlic, onions, crucifers, egg yolk, fish… Sulfur is necessary for the transfer of methyl groups.
Avoid sugar which decreases your vitamin reserves.
Avoid tobacco, alcohol, caffeine which limit the activity of group B vitamins.
Take care to maintain a good intestinal flora for the absorption of vitamins, in particular.
The intake of B vitamins
In the event of an increase in blood homocysteine, a supply of vitamins B2, B6, B9 and B12 which participate in the methylation cycle can often solve the problem (provided, of course, of having the good habits seen above.
We can search for the B vitamins and especially folate (vitamin B9) in their diet (whole grains, beans, nuts, fish, eggs, etc.). It is also possible to supplement with brewer’s yeast or B multivitamins or certain B vitamins taken separately.
Methyl group donors
To improve methylation reactions which decrease with aging, some authors recommend taking amino acids such as S-adenosyl-methionine (SAMe) or Trimethylglycine (TMG). It is often associated with group B vitamins which we have already mentioned.
In addition, the contributions magnesium and in zinc must be sufficient because these two elements participate in the methylation cycle.
The SAMe is the basis of methylation reactions. It is made by our body from methionine and ATP (the energy fuel of our cells made in our mitochondria*). Vitamins B6, B9 and B12 are essential for this production.
SAMe activates the degradation of homocysteine. It is classically used in anti-aging medicine to fight against joint pain, depressive disorders, cardiovascular diseases, and to help liver detoxification reactions. Many studies highlight its effects.
Trimethylglycine (also called betaine) is usually extracted from beets for use in humans. It provides methyl ions and promotes the reduction of blood homocysteine by converting it back into methionine. It also allows the production of SAMe. The daily useful dose is between 0.5 and 3 grams depending on the person.
Other nutrients that lower homocysteine
The homocysteine blood assay is not widely known or used in conventional medicine in France. It is also not reimbursed. It is, on the other hand, much more considered in the USA for example. If you are predisposed to the conditions mentioned above, it may be interesting to know your blood level. At least we won’t start a treatment to lower it if it’s normal.
wisteria is still an amino acid. It promotes the transformation of homocysteine into cysteine and then into glutathione. It is quite possible that our modern diet has become low in glycine. Constituting collagen, glycine is concentrated in the bones, skin, cartilage and tendons… of animals. It is true that today these foods are not very present on our plate. Supplementation can be interesting around .
Choline, considered by some to be a B vitamin, can transform into TMG (or betaine) to give a methyl group to homocysteine which will then convert into methionine. It is found in egg yolk, liver, pork, wheat germ, soybeans, broccoli… Again, data analyzes show that a lack of choline is very common in humans ( Jensen et al., 2007). It could promote the accumulation of homocysteine.
In anti-aging medicine, methylation reactions in our body are much less popular than oxidation or glycation reactions, for example. Yet they are just as important for form and longevity.
Today, certain nutritional deficiencies are quite common:
- B vitamins…
By avoiding lack of these nutrients, and by controlling that your methylation is correct, you can protect yourself from many diseases related to aging and thus optimize your longevity.
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