Activated B vitamins vs non-activated B vitamins
For many years, the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) only allowed certain forms of B vitamins to be available in listed nutritional supplements. This has now changed and two other important forms of vitamin B, activated folate (methylfolate) and activated vitamin B12 (methylcobalamin) have been approved for inclusion in listed nutritional supplements in Australia. Methylfolate and methylcobalamin are activated B vitamins that can now sit happily among the other activated B vitamins: B2 (riboflavin sodium phosphate) and B6 (pyridoxal 5-phosphate or P5P).
Activated B vitamins are biologically active in the body and generally do not require any metabolic or enzymatic conversion before they can be used by the body, apart from P5P. P5P needs to go through a one-step process of re-adding a phosphate group before it becomes active, compared to pyridoxine hydrochloride which requires a multi-step process before it becomes active. Non-activated B vitamins, on the other hand, require some form of metabolic or enzymatic conversion to take place before the B vitamin can be readily used by the body e.g. another form of vitamin B12 known as cyanocobalamin, needs to be converted to methylcobalamin for use in the body.
Activated B vitamins may be beneficial for those who:
- Consume a diet high in refined or processed foods
- Take certain medications that may deplete B vitamins
- Have problems with absorption or digestive issues
- Are strict vegetarians or vegan
- Are elderly
- Have methylene-tetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) polymorphisms
Activated B vitamins may be beneficial for those with MTHFR polymorphisms. The MTHFR gene is responsible for the production of the MTHFR enzyme which allows the correct metabolism of folate, and folate together with vitamin B12, functions as a methyl group donor in a wide variety of metabolic and nervous system processes.
Several polymorphisms, or gene variations, exist which can affect folate metabolism and increases the risk of folate deficiency in affected individuals, even when meeting the recommended daily intakes. The most common mutation is the MTHFR C677T mutation:
1. Individuals who are heterozygote (one copy of the gene) for the MTHFR C677T mutation have a 40% reduction in activity of the MTHFR enzyme
2. Individuals who are homozygote (two copies of the gene) have about a 70% reduction in activity of the MTHFR enzyme
Reduced MTHFR enzyme activity affects the production of methylfolate.
B vitamins as a group generally all help to:
- Maintain energy production
- Assist glucose metabolism
- Maintain red blood cell health
- Support a healthy stress response in the body
- Maintain nervous system health
- Support emotional wellbeing (required for the synthesis of neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine, dopamine and serotonin)
- Support cardiovascular system health
- Assist the conversion of homocysteine to methionine (vitamins B6, B12 and methylfolate)
Methylfolate and methylcobalamin help:
- Maintain brain function and health
- Support cognitive function and memory recall
- Support healthy foetal development (methylfolate)
While each individual B vitamin has its own distinct health benefits, they also work very well together when combined in a B vitamin complex formula. See Activated B Complex.