Folate (Vitamin B9) is also known as folic acid or folate. "Folic" is derived from the word "folium," meaning leaves, as in green leafy vegetables. Needless to say, leaves are one of the richest sources of vitamin B9.
The vitamin B9 we eat is absorbed in the jejunum region of the small intestine after going through minor structural changes.
In most cases, dietary sources of vitamin B9 are sufficient to meet this nutrient's requirement. Other than the leafy greens, some foods rich in vitamin B9 are beans, whole grains, seafood, peanuts, and sunflower seeds.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance or RDA for folate is 400 mcg/day for healthy adults. The RDA for lactating and pregnant women are 500 and 600 mcg/day, respectively.
Folate deficiency in pregnant women is one of the leading causes of neural tube defects, a birth abnormality, in babies.
Symptoms of vitamin B9 deficiency include extreme tiredness, pale skin, headaches, and heart palpitations.
Vitamin B9 needs to be converted into a form called tetrahydrofolate or THF to be effectively used by the body. The conversion of folic acid to THF is carried out by an enzyme called THF reductase.
This conversion is a very crucial step in the MTHFR cycle.
THF plays a very important role in converting a harmful amino acid called homocysteine to a safe and useful amino acid called methionine.
Image: Folate Cycle
The MTHFR gene is a well-known gene associated with folate deficiency. This gene helps the conversion of inactive vitamin B9 such as folate, or folic acid, to active B9, the THF.
30-60% of people have a change in this gene that ultimately leads to low vitamin B9 levels in the body.
Other genes like MTYL1 also influence your vitamin B9 levels.
Fortunately, vitamin B9 deficiency comes with a simple fix - increasing your dietary folate intake. In some cases, folate supplements may be advised.
A simple genetic test can reveal your genetic status of vitamin B9 deficiency.
Most genetic tests provide your DNA information in the form of a text file called the raw DNA data. This data may seem like Greek and Latin to you.
At Xcode Life, can help you interpret this data. Upload your raw data and order a nutrition report. Xcode Life then analyzes your raw data in detail to provide you with comprehensive nutrition analysis, including information on your vitamin B9 requirements.
WATCH: How to interpret your MTHFR report
MTHFR stands for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase and is produced by the MTHFR gene.
MTHFR enzyme performs the function of adding chemical (methyl) groups to folic acid (Vitamin B9) in order for the body to utilize it efficiently.
This process is also necessary for the process that converts the amino acid homocysteine to another amino acid, methionine.
With your 23andMe raw data, you can learn a lot about your MTHFR gene.
All of us have the MTHFR gene. But the type of MTHFR gene differs from person to person.
To explain this better, let’s take the example of blood groups. All of us have red blood. But you may have O+ve blood type, while the other person may be A-ve - and these different blood groups have different health implications.
Like how O+ve and A+ve are the most common blood types, the MTHFR gene also has 2 common variants (type): C677T and A1298C, the former being more common than the latter.
About 40% of the American population have the C677T type, which has been associated with up to 80% reduction in the enzyme’s efficiency
This reduction has been found to lead to increased levels of homocysteine, which in turn increases the risk of venous thrombosis and heart diseases.
Once you learn about the type of MTHFR gene you carry, the effects of it can be made better by simple fixes such as dietary changes and folic acid supplements.
An MTHFR gene test examines variations in the MTHFR gene.
This test does not need a medical prescription. It can be performed in a major genetic diagnostic lab such as Quest or LabCorp.
More readily, the 23andMe MTHFR status can be learned from your 23andMe raw data. Anyone with 23andMe raw data can upload their DNA raw data to xcode.life to learn about their 23andMe MTHFR status. So the MTHFR “test” does not necessarily have to be a test but can be as simple as uploading your 23andMe raw data (if you already have it) and downloading your results.
In an MTHFR gene test, the DNA is retrieved from a saliva sample. The sequence of your DNA is then analyzed for the most well-studied and verified types of MTHFR gene known to have an effect on your body functions and disease mentioned above.
There are many service providers and online tools that help you find out about your 23andMe MTHFR status. Some of them are listed below:
The MTHFR nucleotide at position 677 in the gene has two possibilities: C (cytosine) or T (Thymine). C at position 677 is the normal version - Let us call this the C type gene.
The C type gene produces an enzyme that is stable in heat. Thus, people who have this type have normal enzymatic activity.
The T type gene (T at position 677), on the other hand produces an enzyme that is unstable in heat.
People who have the T type gene have lower enzymatic activity as this enzyme is readily destroyed by heat.
Individuals with two copies of the C type gene (CC) are the majority in the population.
Those with two copies of the T type gene (TT) have lower enzyme activity than CC or CT (one copy of the C type and one copy of the T type genes) individuals.
Low dietary intake of the vitamin folic acid can also cause mild hyperhomocysteinemia.
Essentially, your 23andMe MTHFR analysis provider will be able to tell you whether your MTHFR enzyme efficiency is normal, reduced, or severely reduced and recommend supplements or diets accordingly.
With simple dietary modifications, you will be able to mitigate the enzyme deficiency.
If you already have your DNA raw data from an ancestry test you may have done, you can easily find out your 23andMe MTHFR status from your DNA raw data. Otherwise, you may consider an ancestry test for $99 or less, so that you can get your genetic raw data for further analysis. Once you have your raw data, you can upload it to xcode.life for your 23andMe MTHFR status report.