What is Methylation?


[meth ala shən]

the introduction of a methyl group, CH3, to a chemical compound. {source:medical-dictonary}
My favorite definition is this:

Methylation is a process by which a gene’s behavior is altered, but the gene itself isn’t changed. This is almost like following all the directions in baking a batch of cookies correctly, except for the oven temperature. Even though all of the ingredients are the same, those cookies won’t bake — or behave — the same way when baked a couple hundred degrees lower than they should be.

In methylation, though, the wrong oven temperature is actually other factors, such as environmental exposures or different lifestyle choices. These factors have the potential to cause methyl groups, which are groups of one carbon and three hydrogens, to land on top of our genes and change how they are expressed. This, in turn, changes the ability of our genes to share the directions they contain for making our bodies’ proteins.

{source: Discovery.com}

So why should you CARE what methylation is??

Because… methylation is the ON/OFF SWITCH for many of our genes.  It is widely accepted that we can not change our DNA or our genetic code… or can we? Perhaps we cannot change the sequence of letters that spell out our genetic code, but can we influence (through nutrition, medication, vitamins, and environmental  factors), the expression of those genes (the letters)? Understanding methylation can provide HOPE for many who have been told, “it is GENETIC” (and there is nothing you can do about it or to improve it).  Is methylation a cure, no… Is understanding methylation, HOPE, for an improved quality of life, YES!

I was first introduced to the concept of methylation, through reading a number of posts on message boards ranging in topics from autism to chronic fatigue syndrome and from mitochondrial disease to mental illness, from cancer to heart disease, from allergies to miscarriages and from Alzheimer’s to Parkinson’s disease. With such a vast array of disorders… I was AWE struck that the conversations about methylation and symptoms (of poor methylation) sounded SO SIMILAR. So, if your family history contains ANY one (or more) of those conditions… then methylation should be on your and your family’s radar!

On a number of groups, individuals were talking about Dr. Amy Yasko’s Methylation testing. She defines the importance of methylation on her website as this:

Why is the Methylation Cycle Important?

The Methylation Cycle is a biochemical pathway that manages or contributes to a wide range of crucial bodily functions, including:


Immune function

Maintaining DNA

Energy production

Mood balancing

Controlling inflammation

{source: Dr. Amy Yasko’s site}

Since so many chronic illnesses have immune dysfunction, inflammation, toxicity and energy (mis)production as their ROOT CAUSE… understanding methylation seems to be of more importance to health than perhaps knowing which pharmaceutical remedies which symptom!

Many other labs provide this testing of methyltion SNP’s, some require a doctor’s orders and others do not. Do your homework and consult with your doctor first!

For those of you who want to learn more…

Methylation Basics~ UTAH.EDU

PBS NOVA methylation video

Dr. Amy Yasko~ Methylation

Dr. James Roberts

Cardiologist and author of “Reverse Heart Disease Now”

discusses methylation in relation to ADULTS and heart disease (and other chronic illness)

Phenols and Methylation


“Certain dietary polyphenols, such as (-)-epigallocatechin 3-gallate (EGCG) from green tea and genistein from soybean, have been demonstrated to inhibit DNA methyltransferases (DNMT) in vitro.”

Overview of Methylation- Better Health Guy

Recap of Interview with D.r Tim Jackson about Methylation

Dr. Robert Hedaya, Professor of Psychiatry

Methylation and Depression

Dr. Mark Hyman-

Maximizing Methylation: The Key to Healthy Aging

On the Chemical Causation of Methyl Deficiency and its Attendant Pathologies {source:FDA.gov}

IN PLAIN ENGLISH (via babyfoodsteps)- Certain chemicals (just like enzyme deficiencies and dietary deficiencies) can cause abnormal methyaltion processes that cause disease such as: cancer,  hardening of the arteries, birth defects and neurotoxicity. Some of those chemicals included common drugs like methotrexate, phenobarbitol, Carbon tetrachloride, DDT and metals such as lead and arsenic.

Abstract: It is now fairly well established that physiological methyl group deficiency and abnormal DNA methylation are involved in the etiology of several pathological processes. The proceedings of a recent meeting on this subject held at the NIH campus in Bethesda, MD, the “Trans-HHS Workshop: Diet, DNA Methylation Processes and Health”, have recently been described [Journal of Nutrition, 132 (8S):2329S-2484S, 2002]. The pathologies considered at the workshop included: cancer, atherosclerosis, birth defects, aging, diabetes and pancreatic toxicity, and hepatotoxicity. Two major causes of the diseases related to methyl group insufficiency were considered at this conference: dietary deficiency and genetic polymorphism.

A third prospective cause, chemicals, was not treated in depth. The purpose of this article is to explore the evidence that exogenous chemicals, like dietary imbalances and genetic defects, may produce the abnormal methylation processes linked to the etiology of disease. The pathologies considered are cancer, pancreatic toxicity and diabetes, atherosclerosis, birth defects, and neurotoxicity. Four categories of toxic chemicals are considered: the antimetabolites of the methyl donors, the anticonvulsants, polyhalogenated compounds, and metalsThe results indicate that a number of such agents appear to exert their pathological effects, at least in part, through abnormal methylation processes 


The present review summarized evidence supporting the generalization that physiological methyl group deficiency and abnormal methylation processes caused by specific categories of chemicals, like those caused by dietary deficiencies and enzymatic defects, produce a pattern of pathological alterations. Such pathologies include cancer, pancreatic toxicity, atherosclerosis, birth defects, and neurotoxicity. The categories of agents that appear to act via abnormal methylation are the antimetabolites of essential methyl intermediates, the anticonvulsants, polyhalogenated compounds and certain metals. It is interesting to note that these agents are thought to act via epigenetic, and not by classical genotoxic, mechanisms. The evidence compiled here presents a reasonable case that the pathologies induced by these chemical categories of agents share common causal mechanisms centered on abnormal one-carbon metabolism.

The evidence presented above showed that representative compounds from each of the categories significantly altered methyl group metabolism, particularly DNA methylation. In addition, the SAM precursors methionine, choline, betaine, and folic acid inhibited many of the toxic and biochemical effects of the representative compounds discussed above. The toxic compounds whose activity was inhibited by the methyl donors included: the antimetabolites ethionine and MTX; the anticonvulsants phenobarbital, diphenylhydantoin, and valproic acid; the polyhalogenated compounds DDT and CCl4, and the metal Pb (vide supra). Also, as noted above, azacytidine inhibited the chemopreventive effects of SAM.

Epigenetics of Cancer and Acetylation of Histones Video

Facebook groups/pages that you can learn more in and ask questions:




Methylation is at the CROSSROADS of where genes and environmental factors collide~HEAD-ON! Knowing you can influence some of those environmental factors to tweak a gene’s activity (or inactivity) is a glimmer of HOPE in a sometimes overwhelmingly dismal world of DEAD-END diagnoses. ~babyfoodsteps.com

About Empowered Advocacy

www.EmpoweredAdvocacy.com Pediatric Patient Advocate
This entry was posted in Autism, Genetics, Medical, Methylation, Toxins and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to What is Methylation?

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  4. Luis says:

    I have to take the anticonvulsant phenytoin. So, I must not take methylation supplements, because they would cancel the drug effects ?

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