Photo by Edgar Castrejon on Unsplash

March 9, 2018

Folate: also known as vitamin B9, is an essential nutrient for the expression of genes as well as as a cofactor for one carbon metabolism of nucleic acids and amino acids. This B vitamin is the focus of much study right now as it is critical to human health. 

It is a water soluble vitamin that is used as a cofactor in gene expression systems as well as the production of our book of life pieces, DNA/RNA, as well as certain amino acids. 

We need B9 to help a reaction occur in the body called methylation that allows a carbon atom group called a methyl group to be transferred to certain locations on the DNA sequence that puts a silencing sticky note in place. B12 and B3 are necessary for the completion of this function. Other methylation reactions are also dependent on folate. These events help prevent abnormal DNA transcription made famous by Randy Jirtle's Agouti mouse. Inappropriate function at this methylation level is linked to cancer and many other disorders. It is part of the basis of the exploding field of epigenetics. 

We need folate to make DNA from its precursors. We use it to make and repair the DNA of cells throughout the body. It is critical during periods of rapid cell growth including pregnancy, infancy and puberty. 

Folate deficiency is uncommon. It presents megaloblastic anemia which is a large red blood cell anemia. Patients are fatigued, pale, have a swollen red tongue and diarrhea . Neurologically, depression, mood dys-regulation, numbness/tingling of extremities and other emerging associated neurologic diseases. 

Babies born with neural tube spine defects are known to have prenatal maternal folic acid deficiency. 

Insufficiency is of great concern in our population. Current literature is showing that inadequate levels of B9 will cause mood problems, hair greying, diarrhea and other issues based on genetic risks.

Polymorphisms of certain genes including MTHFR, methyltetrahydrofolate reductase, are being heavily studied with regard to cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. Most integrative providers are testing for these genetic variants and supplementing with methylated folate to reduce homocysteine and other metabolites associated with disease. The hallmark paper on Alzheimers treatment by Dr. Bredenesen in California has treatment of MTHFR SNP's as part of a comprehensive and successful approach to Alzheimers.  

Homocysteine is an amino acid that builds up in humans with SNP's of MTHFR. Getting the level to a recommended range is the current target for anti cardiac and cancer risk stratification protocols. I personally have dealt with this SNP in my genome and have successfully lowered my homocysteine out of the believed risk range through diet and targeted supplements. 

Keeping B9 and all B vitamin levels adequate should be a first line therapy coupled with a sleep regimen for anyone with mood issues.

In adult and child populations, there are no known serious side effects of excessive B9 intake. 

Food sources of B9 are beans and leafy greens. The US government has been fortifying breads and cereals for years as an added source. 

Most adults need 400 mcg/day. Incrementally less for kids. This nutrient is easily obtained from a anti inflammatory diet. Pregnancy and infancy are times of increased B vitamin needs. We highly stress the need for adequate B vitamin stores for all females of child bearing age. 

People at risk for insufficiency or deficiency have: alcoholism, smokers, intestinal dysbiosis, inflammatory bowel disease, eating disorders, celiac disease and people using sulfasalazine for inflammatory bowel disease, methotrexate for autoimmune disease and seizure medicine phenytoin.

Dr. M

*With many of these micronutrients, you will see a pattern that the brain, gut and skin are often affected. These highly metabolic and rapid cell turnover organs are most susceptible to insufficiency states that occur with a modern human processed, government subsidized diet that promotes gut dysfunction, malabsorption and inflammation.