What is methylation? How does it impact neurodegenerative disease?

 In Functional Medicine

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Our experts here at Sharlin Health near Springfield understand that DNA Methylation and neurodegenerative disease go hand in hand. Methylation is one of the many vitamin-requiring biochemical mechanisms the body uses to maintain optimal mental and physical health. It supports several key processes, including gene expression and DNA repair, and takes place billions of times every second.

DNA methylation can prevent certain gene expressions – for example, methylation can inhibit a gene that causes a cancerous tumor to grow from switching on. Methylation reactions also support the following:

  • Neurotransmitter production
  • The recycling of molecules needed for the body’s natural detoxification
  • Homocysteine balance for optimal cardiovascular health
  • Beneficial inflammatory responses
  • Proper energy metabolism

How methylation processes change throughout life

DNA methylation patterns change throughout our lifetimes. For fetuses and newborns, the process occurs most frequently and varies significantly. According to a 2015 review, methylation variations enable the body’s tissue and organs to form.

As we age, methylation processes occur less frequently – a study found that people aged 100 and over had less methylated DNA than newborns, and people aged 26 had methylated DNA between that of newborns and 100-year-olds. When methylation processes slow, more DNA strands experience breakages. What’s more, genes once inhibited by methylated DNA can become active, potentially triggering a variety of diseases.

Methylation process and neurodegenerative disease

Our neuro specialists here near Springfield believe that without proper DNA Methylation, neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease (PD), Alzheimer’s disease (AD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and Huntington’s disease (HD) are more likely to occur. Depending on both genetic and environmental factors, your susceptibility to these disorders may be influenced by environmental conditions during your development and in adulthood. Research has suggested that epigenetic modifications, including DNA methylation, could be one way the environment impacts neurological health.

Research into the four major neurodegenerative diseases – PD, AD, ALS, and HD – has demonstrated the role DNA methylation plays in development and progression. For example, according to a review of several studies , the level of DNA methylation in individuals with AD on the whole-genome scale is lower than in people without AD.

How you can support the methylation process

Early research into the factors impacting DNA methylation suggests diet plays an important role. The enzymes that activate B-vitamins can inhibit proper methylation. What’s more, folate, B2, B6, and B12 deficiencies can interfere with methylation.

What’s so special about the B-vitamins? This group of eight water-soluble vitamins contributes to several critical, interdependent processes relating to cellular functioning. They act as coenzymes in a broad range of anabolic and catabolic reactions. Together, they have far-reaching impacts on many facets of brain health and function, including the following:

  • DNA/RNA synthesis and repair
  • Energy production
  • Genomic and non-genomic methylation
  • Synthesis of several neurochemicals and signaling molecules
  • Homocysteine metabolism

Our Springfield clinic recognizes that vitamin B supports DNA methylation and helps prevent neurodegenerative diseases. Deficiency in B-group vitamins can, in the shorter term, cause feelings of fatigue. B-group vitamins are required if the body is to use energy-yielding nutrients, such as carbohydrates and protein. In the longer term, deficiencies could trigger the slowing of DNA methylation processes. Therefore, ensuring you are getting the required amount of B-vitamins in your diet or through supplements is one of the best ways you can support your body’s methylation process.

B-vitamins in food

B-vitamins are found in many foods.
B-vitamin-rich foods include:

  • Dark leafy greens, such as kale
  • Beans, such as black beans and chickpeas
  • Dairy products, such as milk and cheese
  • Meats, such as red meat and chicken
  • Seafood, such as salmon, tuna, and clams
  • Whole grains and cereals, such as oats
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Fruits, such as bananas
  • Soy-based products, such as tofu and soy milk
  • Other miscellaneous foods, such as molasses, nutritional yeast, and wheat germ

Despite their prevalence, B-group vitamins are typically delicate – the process of cooking or processing can minimize or destroy them. For example, in white flour, white rice, and white bread, the parts of the food that contain the highest level of B-group vitamins are removed during processing.

In addition, our bodies cannot store an unlimited amount of all the B-vitamins, B12 and folate being the exceptions. So if you have a poor diet for just a few months, you could develop a deficiency.

Supplements for methylation support

Our neurology professionals near Springfield believe that supplements are a great way to naturally strengthen and support healthy Methylation production and maintenance. B-vitamin deficiency is not uncommon, but high-quality supplements could be the solution. If you are looking to reduce your risk of neurodegenerative disease by supporting your body’s DNA methylation processes, be sure the supplements you choose contain the following vital ingredients:


Folate is crucial to maintaining proper methylation. While it is found in an abundance of foods, including fruit and leafy vegetables, it is quickly destroyed by the heat of cooking. Look for the bioactive form of folate called 5-methyltetrahydrofolate or 5-MTHF.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 works alongside folate in the synthesis of red blood cells and DNA. It also helps support the myelin sheath, which surrounds and insulates nerve cells. Methylcobalamin is the ideal form of B12. It’s biologically active and aids the up-regulation of methylation pathways.

If you are elderly or follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, you are at a higher risk of vitamin B12 deficiency.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is a vital B vitamin that contributes to the creation of proteins in the body. It also helps produce neurotransmitters that regulate mood and red blood cells while supporting the immune system’s proper functioning. In addition, vitamin B6 is needed in over 60 enzymatic reactions and works in conjunction with 5-MTHF and B12 to recycle homocysteine. Finally, B6 aids the cardiovascular system by promoting healthy platelet aggregation and supports normal blood pressure.

Vitamin B2

B2 helps to support normal blood pressure, particularly in people with specific genetic mutations, including MTHFR 677 > T polymorphism.

Betaine (Trimethylglycine)

Trimethylglycine aids optimal liver function and supports the detoxification pathways. In addition, it is beneficial in the fight against fat accumulation in the liver, thanks to its lipotropic properties. Trimethylglycine also operates alongside vitamins B2, B6, B12, and folate to help maintain healthy homocysteine levels.

Leading-edge methylation support supplements

After years of hands-on experience on the cutting edge of neurology, I have engineered several potent supplements, which are offered at our Springfield clinic, to increase brain function and protect against cognitive decline. Both Neuro B Complex and Neuro-Active B can support the body’s methylation processes, boosting your brain’s neurotransmitter production, DNA repair, and overall health and functioning. If you are interested in learning more about DNA methylation and neurodegenerative diseases, contact our Springfield clinic!

Shop my complete range of evidence-backed supplements today.

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