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Men’s Health & Methylation
September 04, 2019
by Aaron Slotkin, C.C.N., M.S., Pharm.D.
Men are usually more hesitant to seek out healthcare. Many health conditions and imbalances, such as extra weight, heart disease, diabetes, etc. are preventable with proper medical, dietary, and lifestyle interventions.
As a nutritionist, I feel diet plays a critical role. Think of food as information for your body. Give it the proper information, and you can expect good results, whether it be physical or mental health.
As far as health screening goes for men, getting a comprehensive blood chemistry panel is key to supporting good health. The testing I can provide goes beyond the basic markers such as cholesterol and a CBC and includes markers of blood sugar, inflammation, immunity, endocrine, thyroid, digestive, liver, and nutritional status.
Please note this test would be used as health support and is not a replacement for medical care by a doctor. The screening used looks at the values “functionally”. Think of a stoplight. In this case, red would mean a possible disease that might need to be treated medically. Green would mean everything is okay. But there is a yellow range, which may be considered a “functional” range, and may indicate an imbalance in metabolism and when supported with nutrition may provide one with better digestion, improved weight, energy, etc.
For an example of a blood marker that can provide valuable information about one’s health, let’s talk about homocysteine.
In the medical world, homocysteine is used to help assess cardiovascular risk, if suspected. Additionally, high homocysteine levels are inflammatory and are also associated with an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. A blood level of over 14 may double one’s risk of dementia. That is because high homocysteine levels can damage the brain. According to some, anything above 7 is less than ideal and may be associated with health risk and could be contributing to inflammation.
From a nutritional point of view, a homocysteine level can be a helpful addition when assessing the overall picture of one’s health. Moderately high levels may indicate inflammation, poor gut function, or most likely poor “methylation”.
Methylation is very important. It is a process by which genes are turned on and off. If methylation is out of balance, various functions in the body can be out of balance as well. Examples are detoxification, immunity, metabolism, etc. The vitamin compound folate, as well as vitamin B12 and vitamin B6, are key players in keeping methylation running and homocysteine in check.
Therefore, eating adequate dietary foliates, found in foods such as dark leafy greens and beans, is very important. This is especially true for people that have a genetic polymorphism (SNP) in a gene that regulates methylation of folate, the MTHFR gene.
And being men, we often overlook important dietary changes such as these, being content with foods like beer and burgers. But these types of food do not support proper methylation.
Proper methylation can support your metabolism and weight. This is because it helps produce a compound called carnitine which helps the body to utilize fat for fuel. I have noticed that once certain individuals start eating their leafy greens daily (which contain the natural foliates that support methylation), they start to lose weight and have more energy. This could be why.
Do B vitamin supplements help to reduce disease risk? Some studies have suggested little to no benefit, while others have shown promise. Supplementation with B vitamins has been shown by some studies to reduce the acceleration of brain atrophy in people with mild cognitive impairment.
If you have been following my other blog posts, you know about glutathione and how important optimal levels in the body can be for your health. Having elevated homocysteine may indicate a less than optimal glutathione level in your body. That is because the homocysteine may not be getting converted over into glutathione properly.
Conversely, you don’t want homocysteine levels too low. Low homocysteine can be just as bad as a high one. If someone is vegan or vegetarian, it is important they get enough amino acids, such as methionine and cysteine, whether through dietary sources or supplements.
Aaron Slotkin is aBoard Certified Clinical Nutritionist and Pharmacist.