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What Is Methylation? Our Most Important Pathway Simplified

Posted by DaVinci Healthcare Expert on Dec 5, 2019 2:07:25 PM


Methylation plays a role in many processes within our body, and errors in methylation are linked to several illnesses, including cardiovascular conditions, insulin resistance, brain disorders, and more.

Eukaryotes are organisms that contain DNA, and they control gene expression in many ways. Methylation of DNA is common chemical modifications of DNA signaling that cells use to lock genes in "off" mode.1 Scientists have researched extensively about DNA methylation, including how and where it occurs.

The Basics of Genetics

The body contains around 37 trillion human cells and 40 trillion bacterial cells. These cells provide structure for the body, take in nutrients from food and convert them into energy, and carry out many other specialized functions.2 Cells also contain the body’s hereditary material: DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid. 

Nearly every cell in a person’s body has the same DNA. Most DNA is in the cell nucleus, but a small amount can also be found in the mitochondria, which are structures within cells that convert food into energy.3 The basic physical and functional unit of DNA is a gene. The average person has about 20,000 to 25,000 genes in their body, and the physical and cellular differences between people come from minor variations in these genes.5

To regulate the expression of these genes, DNA methylation either recruits proteins involved in gene repression or inhibits the binding of transcription factor(s) to DNA. DNA methylation changes are associated with several health challenges and can have a profound impact on individuals' health.6,7

Learn about the surprising benefits of DMG supplements.*

What Is Methylation?

Methylation is critical in the regulation of gene expression and is often associated with loss of gene expression—the process by which information from a gene creates a functional gene product.8 Some believe DNA methylation evolved as a host defense mechanism to silence foreign DNA such as viral sequences and other repetitive sequences.

DNA methylation is essential for normal cellular differentiation, but it is susceptible to many environmental factors. Studies have identified methylation changes associated with diet, smoking, drinking, age, gender, and lifestyle.9 

Poor Methylation

A deficit in methylation can lead to a wide range of health conditions. Nutrient deficiency is a primary cause of impaired methylation, and DNA methylation is easily altered in response to nutritional and environmental factors. 10

Alterations in DNA methylation can lead to changes in gene expression, which can potentially increase the risk of many health issues affecting multiple mechanisms in the body.

How to Support Optimal Methylation

The primary methyl donor for DNA methylation is S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), a compound found naturally in the body. SAMe helps produce and regulate hormones and maintain cell membranes. It requires the presence of dietary micronutrients, including folate, choline, betaine, and other B vitamins.11 For this reason, nutrition—particularly micronutrient intake—is important for optimal methylation.* 

Folate, or folic acid, is another B vitamin that’s important in DNA methylation.* Folate is found in leafy green vegetables, citrus fruit, and beans. Folate supplementation has been associated with increased DNA methylation because it can donate S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe).*

Another essential ingredient is choline, which is an indirect methyl group donor. It is oxidized to betaine, which then contributes to methionine homeostasis.* Methionine is an essential sulfur amino acid that is engaged in key cellular functions such as protein synthesis.*12 Studies suggest that betaine—along with vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid—help reduce higher levels of homocysteine, which can improve cardiovascular health.*13

Related Content: HOw Much MethylatioN Support Is Too Much?

The Role of B Vitamins and Gut Health

Vitamins B2, B6, and B12 also have an important role in folate and DNA methylation.* Consumption of these vitamins can influence DNA methylation.* Among former smokers, an increase in serum vitamin B12 concentration was associated with a decrease in methylation for several important gene promoters.*14

A strong immune system and proper gut health are also essential because DNA methylation is associated with building natural killer (NK) cells, which can change immune system function. As we age, methylation decreases. This can cause a decrease in T cells and NK cells. 

The microbiota is highly influenced by a variety of factors that can shape and change the overall composition of the gut environment. Probiotics are thought to be significantly involved in affecting gut health, and their ability to increase NK cell activity has been extensively studied.*15


It’s clear that defects in DNA methylation can negatively affect overall quality of life. To avoid experiencing methylation defects, it’s important to support your nutritional lifestyle and enhance your immune system.* Key nutrients you can add to your diet include folate, B vitamins, choline/betaine, probiotics, and natural immune enhancers. These nutrients not only play an essential role in DNA methylation, but they can help support your overall health and quality of life.*

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*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.



 1- Phyllips, T. (2008). The Role of Methylation in Gene Expression. Nature Education, 1(1), 116.

2- Bianconi, E. et al. (2013). An estimation of the number of cells in the human body. Ann Hum Biol, 40, 463-71.

3- U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/primer/basics/dna

4- U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/primer/basics/gene

5- National Library of Medicine. Genetics Home Reference. How can gene mutations affect health and development? www.ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/mutationsanddisorders/mutationscausedisease.

6- Kim, M. et al. (2010). DNA methylation as a biomarker for cardiovascular disease risk. PLoS One, 5,0.

7- Urdingui, R.G. et al. (2009). Epigenetic mechanisms in neurological diseases: genes, syndromes, and therapies. Neurol, 8, 1056-1072..

8- Razin, A., Riggs, A.D. (1980). DNA methylation and gene function. Science, 7, 210(4470), 604-10.

9- Jung, M. & Pfeifer, G.P. (2015). Aging and DNA methylation. BMC Biol, 13, 7.

10-  Anderson, O., Sant, K. & Dolinoy, C. (2012). Nutrition and epigenetics: An interplay of dietary methyl donors, one-carbon metabolism, and DNA methylation. J Nutr Biochem, 23(8), 853-859.

11-  Anderson, O., Sant, K., & Dolinoy, C. (2012). Nutrition and epigenetics: An interplay of dietary methyl donors, one-carbon metabolism, and DNA methylation. J Nutr Biochem, 23(8), 853-859.

12 - Steele, R.D. & Benevenga, N.J. (1978). Identification of 3-methylthiopropionic acid as an intermediate in mammalian methionine metabolism in vitro. J. Biol. Chem, 253, 7844-7850

13 -  Rajdl, D. et al. (2016). Effect of Folic Acid, Betaine, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin B12 on Homocysteine and Dimethylglycine Levels in Middle-Aged Men Drinking White Wine. Nutrients, 8(1), 34.

14 - Anderson, O., Sant, K., & Dolinoy, C. (2012). Nutrition and epigenetics: An interplay of dietary methyl donors, one-carbon metabolism, and DNA methylation. J Nutr Biochem, 23(8), 853-859.

15- Jun, K. et al. (2000). Microbiological identification of medical probiotic Bispan strain. Korean J Appl Microbiol Biotechnol, 28, 124-7.



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