In the last post I described how some genomes contain errors known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) which encode for a single alteration in the base pair and cause structural errors in proteins. There are some SNPs which have been studied well and are used in common testing panels and I will discuss some of them in this article.
One of those well-studied SNPs is linked to an enzyme known as methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR). This enzyme is encoded in chromosome 1 and it is involved in the conversion of an amino acid known as homocysteine into methionine. Homocysteine can be measured in the blood and high levels have been linked to increased risks for developing conditions like hypertension and coronary artery stenosis.
This MTHFR enzyme is also important in a process known as methylation. Methylation is simply the addition of a carbon with 3 hydrogen atoms to another molecule. This process is important for producing different compounds like serotonin and dopamine which are involved in mood regulation and their deficiency leads to depression and other mental health conditions.
MTHFR is also vital for converting methionine to S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe). This compound plays an important role in the immune system and in maintaining cell membranes. It also assists in the production of serotonin and dopamine.
B complex vitamins like B12, B9 (folate) and B6 are used as cofactors these chemical reactions. Their supplementation is therefore important for ensuring that these body processes proceed normally.
The important thing to note is not the names of the specific chemical reactions taking place in your body but to get a rough idea of how your inner mechanisms work so that you can understand why some conditions need to be treated comprehensively.
For example treating anxiety with just medications does not take into consideration all the biochemical processes involved. However, when they are taken into account, supplementation is usually optimized for each patient.
In the next article I will discuss the enzymes that are involved in metabolizing medications.