Aging and Longevity – 1. Methylation
What is Methylation?
Methylation is a process which occurs in every one of our cells. It involves a chemical methyl group (CH3) being passed around a series of molecules in a cycle.
Methylation enables the body to:
- Detoxify toxins within the cell
- Repair damaged DNA
- Create new cells
What Problems Does Defective Methylation Cause?
If the cycle of methylation is not working well a dangerous substance called homocysteine accumulates in the blood. High homocysteine levels cause serious damage to the cells and the DNA. This leads to premature aging – and premature death.
High homocysteine is closely involved in:
- Heart and artery disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Various types of cancer
- Parkinson’s disease
- Low thyroid function
- IBS (inflammatory bowel syndrome)
- ME (Myalgic encephalitis)
and other serious degenerative diseases.
For example a raised homocysteine level can easily double or even quadruple the chances of atherosclerosis and other artery problems, leading to serious illness or death.
What Causes Poor Methylation?
Poor methylation is due either to an insufficient supply of methyl groups necessary to the process; or a deficiency of the nutrients which facilitate the process. The main nutrients required are; vitamin B12, folic acid, and zinc.
The Heart And Arteries And Homocysteine
It is well known that cholesterol can contribute to heart and artery disease. What is not generally known, is that before cholesterol can accumulate in the arteries damage must already be present. This arterial damage can be caused by a high level of homocysteine in the blood.
In fact, the level of blood homocysteine is a much more accurate indicator of heart and artery disease than cholesterol is. Once this sinks in with the medical establishment measurement of homocysteine will supplement routine measurement of cholesterol.
How Can I Lower Homocysteine?
To improve methylation and thus reduce homocysteine there are two approaches. A combination may be needed. The two approaches are:
To increase the elements in the blood, which supply the necessary methyl groups – primarily TMG (trimethylglycine) and SAM-e (S-adenosyl-methionine), and:
To make sure the nutrients, which enable methylation to take place all present in sufficient quantities – these are primarily vitamin B12, folic acid and zinc.
The amount of these nutrients to be taken is determined by a blood test indicating the level of homocysteine and an assessments of the deficiencies present. Professional help is an advantage, if it can be found.
What Level Should Homocysteine Be?
The target level of homocysteine in the blood is 6.3 µmol per liter of blood or less. If as high as 15 µmol per liter – and this level is not rare – the risk of coronary artery disease is quadrupled. A simple blood test will show the level of homocysteine present.
Your doctor will have heard of homocysteine, and can have it measured. However, he or she will probably not to know why you want to test it and not know the implications of a level above 6.3 µmol per liter. So be prepared to explain your concerns to the doctor and to take in some printed material to back yourself up.
Homocysteine – A Crucial Test
Measuring homocysteine is very important. If it is high it means you have a much higher chance of serious ill health than otherwise. This measure of the effectiveness of methylation in your body should be checked annually.
The 4 ‘-ations’ – Vital Indicators of Health
The 4 ‘-ations’ – methylation, oxidation, glycation and inflammation - are processes which damage and kill our cells. If we act to take control of these processes we will slow the path of aging and reduce greatly our chances of developing 21st century diseases – including cancer, heart and artery disease, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.