The MTHFR mutations have garnered much attention because folate is of great significance. I want to be perfectly clear. Consuming folate (via folate-rich foods) is quite advantageous for all, and especially for those with with a MTHFR defect. A folate rich diet is beneficial to everyone! The RDA (recommended daily allowance) for adults is 400 micrograms daily. Increase this dosage by 100 mcg for pregnant and lactating women.
Folate rich foods:
Black eyed peas
The term folate is a derivative of the Latin word folium, which means “foliage”, because folate is found in high concentration in green leafy vegetables. Folate works in coordination with Vitamin B12; and, is vital to many body processes and is crucial to cellular division due to the fact that it is needed in DNA synthesis. If a folate deficiency occurs, all cells of the body are impacted; especially those cells that divide rapidly (red blood cells, cells of GI and urogenital tract). The characteristics of a folate deficiency include poor growth, diarrhea, anemia, gingivitis, and abnormal Pap smear. Many know that folate is important to the development of the nervous system of a fetus and that a folate deficiency during pregnancy can result in birth defects (neural tube defects). Folate, Vitamin B12 and betaine work together to decrease the body concentration of homocysteine. An elevated homocysteine level has been linked to several conditions, such as atherosclerosis and osteoporosis. It is important to mention that alcohol and some prescription drugs (estrogens, sulfasalazine, barbiturates) hinder the metabolism of folate. The RDA for folate is 200 micrograms for men and 180 micrograms for women.
The B vitamins play a vital role in converting folate into its active form, known as L-methylfolate. Those very important B vitamins are B2 (Riboflavin) and B6 (Pyridoxine). I’ve listed some excellent food sources.
Hard boiled eggs
It was in 1879 that Riboflavin, or Vitamin B2, was first discovered. This vitamin plays an important role in energy production. If you become deficient in Vitamin B2 a decrease in energy production results; especially in the cells that divide often (skin, mucus membranes). The early warning signs of a deficiency in B2 include cracking of the lips and corners of the mouth, inflamed tongue, visual disturbances (sensitivity to light, loss of vision acuity), formation of cataracts, and burning/itching of eyes, lips, mouths, and tongue. The RDA for Riboflavin is 1.7 milligrams for men and 1.3 milligrams for women.
Garbanzo beans (dry)
Lima beans (dry)
Navy beans (dry)
Vitamin B6, Pyridoxine, is a very important vitamin that is needed in the production of body proteins and fundamental compounds, chemical transmitters in the nervous system, prostaglandins and red blood cells. This vitamin is crucial to maintain hormonal equilibrium and the functioning of the immune system. The characteristics of inadequate Vitamin B6 include depression, convulsions (especially in children), glucose intolerance, and damage to nerve function.
When you are experiencing a deficiency in any of the above nutrients, you are likely to experience a break down in folate metabolism. It is important to keep in mind Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) as it is needed together with L-methyl folate to break down homocysteine. It is imperative that when you supplement (or increase dietary consumption) with L-methyl folate that you increase B12, too.
Vitamin B12 is also known as cobalamin and was first identified in 1948 as a critical component within the liver that prevented pernicious anemia. As stated earlier, B12 works with folate in several processes including DNA synthesis. When you have a deficiency in B12, you are likely to experience impaired nerve function and mental function. Luckily, Vitamin B12 is required in small amounts and the RDA is 2.0 micrograms.
Vitamin B12/Cobalamin food sources:
Liver (lamb, beef, chicken)
The good news is that there are no foods or nutrients that have been found to directly impact folate metabolism or MTHFR enzyme activity in an adverse manner. It is important to remember that supplements or foods that contain folic acid should be avoided. Please work with your healthcare provider if you are taking antacids, blood pressure medications, metformin, and some contraceptives; as they may interfere with the absorption of B vitamins.
1. Terranella, Robin. MTHFR Gene Therapy Demystified: Crack Your Genetic Code to Better Health. 2017.
2. Murray, Michael T., et al. “Vitamins.” The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, Time Warner International, 2006.