Mark  from United States  asks:

I have been taking and greatly enjoying your Alive!® Men's Ultra 50+ Multivitamin for years and just heard about methylation. From what I have read, as we get older, it sounds like for full absorption of B vitamins, they must be in a methylated form. Are the Alive! multis methylated? Is it just the B vitamins that methylation helps with absorption?

Dr. Eugenia Alfine, Nutrition Scientist:  IN Wellness5/10/2022 5:07:00 PM

Great question! When talking about methylation, it’s important to distinguish between the biochemical process happening inside our cells and the chemical form of the vitamins in question.

As a biochemical process, methylation provides methyl groups (CH3) for the methylation of DNA, RNA, and proteins, thereby regulating several aspects of cell physiology, like gene expression and protein function. When talking about chemical structure (which is the focus of your question), some B vitamins can come in a methylated or non-methylated form, like vitamin B9 (folate) and B12 (cobalamin). The methylated form of certain B-vitamins is also referred to as the biologically “active form” as it can be directly and immediately utilized by the body.. When B-vitamins are consumed in a non-methylated form, they are converted into their methylated form through specific enzymes in the body. Both forms of the vitamin are effective.

The case of folate has a caveat: a certain amount of the population (15-25%) carries a genetic variation (the MTHFR gene polymorphism) that affects the conversion of folic acid, a common form of folate used in supplements and fortified foods, into its active, methylated form. That is why in some cases the biologically active form of folate, called 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF), is recommended for certain individuals instead of folic acid. This is the only case where the methylated form of a vitamin seems to give benefits compared to its non-methylated form. 

It’s important to note that some B vitamins are essential for the methylation pathway but aren’t methylated. The biochemical process of methylation and the chemical structure of the vitamin are two different concepts. Vitamin B2 and B6, for example, are involved in the methylation cycle but are not methylated. 

Alive! Men’s Ultra 50+ Multivitamin contains folate in the form of 5-methyltetrahydrofolate and B12 in the form of methylcobalamin. Another nutrient you may want to check out is choline; it’s often grouped with B vitamins for its similarities and is involved in the methylation cycle. It is found at its highest concentration in eggs, meat, and soybeans.

Dr. Eugenia Alfine
Nutrition Scientist

Dr. Eugenia Alfine

Dr. Eugenia Alfine has a BS in Biology, an MS in Human Nutrition, and a PhD from the German Institute of Human Nutrition. She is the chief Nutrition Scientist at Nature's Way.

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