Dear Editor,
I have opened a can of worms on the last subjects that I have written and I need to clarify as fully as I can because it is confusing, but important. The important thing is what can be done is simple and relates to avoiding artificial folic acid (e.g., enriched cereal, specific vitamins) and opting for methylated vitamins if pregnant, or eating a well-balanced diet otherwise with strict avoidance of folic acid (found in buns, cereal, some breads) by opting for whole food. This should be my last letter on the subject. Some researchers say folic acid should be avoided by everyone, regardless of genes. It is best left to the individual to decide after learning about all risks and facts.
Methylene tetrahydrofolate reductase is what describes a set of genes that stand for MTHFR and these code for what are unseen activities that this enzyme engages in to make the compound described here usable. If these differences are discovered in an individual, they can be exhibited as symptoms that can appear as what is known as mental illness, autism, and other potential problems in living. Folic acid is not folate, but they are routinely described interchangeably, even by professionals (many are taught that). Folate is what is found in spinach, kale, whole grains and other whole foods; while, folic acid is artificial and found in enriched food, and over the counter vitamins that are not methylated. The processes here convert and revert through processes that intend to keep too much out and enough working to produce multitudes of many different neurotransmitters that are used with neurons to move, to learn, to feel, live, express and be. When out of sync, problems also occur related to hormones and homocysteine, among others and others that are probably not yet discovered. There is a potential autism link and already known link to miscarriages and a link to related psychological symptoms.
The problem is largely unseen until it presents as various symptoms that can seem as a classic so called mental illness. In generic terms, folic acid absorbs faster than folate and blocks what can be used in certain groups. Around 50% of the general population has some gene variant described above. Around 90% of those diagnosed as autistic are said to have the more serious variant found on both sets, or sides, attributed to genetic contribution from both parents (i.e., a homozygous variant). In 1998, the U.S. government mandated folic acid be put in certain foods and since then, the population of groups above has skyrocketed. There is a lot of conflicting information out there and facts are hard to come by, but the mandating of folic acid may come down as one of the biggest blunders in terms of unintended consequences. Some may have been good, like iodizing salt, as some have attributed this to sharp intelligence gains that were already rising related to other concepts (e.g., Flynn Effect).
Folate and folic acid has been described by researchers in the UK as dependent on timing, with earlier folic acid use not presenting as risks but later use presenting risks; mitigated by methylated folate later, or simply using quality brands with methylated folate throughout the entire pregnancy and in general. Furthermore, and as importantly, methylated folate will theoretically prevent miscarriage where it would occur otherwise, as these genes are linked with higher incidences of miscarriage, allowed by methylated vitamins that bypass the cycle altogether (i.e., a potential cure for those groups who have suffered such losses, and need not to with this information).
Adam Hutchison
Crawfordsville