No, it’s not street slang. MTHFR is also known as “methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase.” It’s an important enzyme in the metabolic pathways for breaking down the amino acid homocysteine. MTHFR is involved where folate and other B vitamins are important. Ever hear the term “B complex?” MTHFR is part of that picture. After all, the “F” in MTHFR isn’t a 4-letter word, it stands for “folate.” Read on to learn more about the steps you can take to protect your new baby and the best prenatal vitamins for MTHFR.
Are you expecting or even just considering getting pregnant? It’s important to know that there is an association between the MTHFR gene variant and the risk of neural tube defects. A decreased activity of MTHFR affects the folate pathway, which is vital for neural tube closure.
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Here’s what we’ll cover:
Don’t call MTHFR a mutation
If you have the MTHFR gene variant – you are not a freak! Like all gene variants, it’s simply what makes you unique! There are two gene variants that are known to affect this enzyme, one is C677T and the other is A1298C. According to the National Institutes of Health, about 25% of Hispanics and 10-15% of Caucasians have the C677T polymorphism.
So – if you have it, you are not alone!
How do you know if you have the MTHFR gene variant?
Obviously, the best way to find out is to get a genetic test. Luckily, most genetic tests that offer “nutrition” testing do report on the MTHFR gene variants. These tests are really easy to do, just spit in a tube or swab your cheek. One of the most popular options is the 23andMe test with the “Health” option.
Before you buy a DNA test, just make sure that it has the genotype information you are looking for, in this case, MTHFR. What’s nice is that unlike those annoying blood tests, you only need to get tested once. You have the same genotype that you had when you were a baby (even before that!) and you will have the same genotype for the rest of your life.
Best prenatal vitamins for MTHFR: Enter methylfolate
The best prenatal vitamins for MTHFR have methylfolate. Methylfolate is a new kind of folate that’s only been in the prenatal supplement market for a few years. However, it’s not new to your diet. In fact, the naturally-occurring folate found in foods is the same type. It was only after the discovery that folate supplementation can prevent neural tube defects that “folic acid,” the synthetic form of folate, was incorporated into prenatal vitamins and fortified foods.
Methylfolate has advantages over folic acid for people that have the MTHFR gene variant. This is because the MTHFR enzyme catalyzes one of the steps required for folic acid to be converted into a methylated form that can be used by the body. For most people, folic acid is a fine way to increase folate levels. However, for women with the MTHFR gene, folic acid doesn’t quite do the job, and it can even build up in the bloodstream. Recent research suggests that there may be some adverse consequences of this, but the evidence is still emerging.
So, if you find out that you do have the MTHFR gene variant, it’s best to choose a prenatal vitamin with a methylfolate source. The source with the most research behind it is calcium methylfolate, but there is also a glucosamine salt that recently came onto the market. Check out the following high-quality products that have methylfolate:
BFFs: Folate and Vitamin B12
If you decide to take a prenatal vitamin that contains folic acid, its important that it also contains vitamin B12, regardless of whether you have the MTHFR gene variant. This is because a deficiency in either of folate or B12 can lead to anemia. However, if it’s a vitamin B12 deficiency, it’s much more serious, and folic acid has the potential to cover up a folic acid deficiency. Adding some extra vitamin B12 into the mix is a good thing in that case.
On the flip side, if you take one of the prenatals with methylfolate, there is a lower chance of this type of folate masking a B12 deficiency. So it’s just one more reason to choose a prenatal methylfolate. Although the choices are limited now, there are sure to be more products coming out with this new and improved form of folate in the future.
If you have the MTHFR gene variant, you are not alone, and there is something you can do – choose a prenatal supplement with methylfolate. And even if you don’t know whether you have the MTHFR variant or not, methylfolate may be worth paying extra for in your prenatal. Also, don’t forget that while choosing the right folate source is super important, be sure to check out the other key nutrients you should also look for in a prenatal.