JUMP-START YOUR BODY'S SAMe PRODUCTION!
Suddenly everyone is buzzing about SAMe, an extraordinary natural chemical we all manufacture. When SAMe levels are increased, some amazing things start happening--many people have found relief from such debilitating illnesses as depression and liver disease.
Now, based on his own revolutionary findings, Dr. Paul Frankel explains a safe, natural, groundbreaking program of supplements, diet changes, and lifestyle modification that will enhance your body's natural methylation process--the one that creates SAMe. This biochemical reaction also reduces the risk of cancer, premature aging, and heart disease as well as protecting our bodies from harmful toxins, promoting optimum heath and well-being.
Discover THE METHYLATION MIRACLE today and find out how this extraordinary program can dramatically improve your health, and enhance the quality and duration of your life!
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
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About the Author
Paul Frankel is the author of The Methylation Miracle.
Read an Excerpt
WHAT IS METHYLATION?
What is methylation? What role does homocysteine play in methylation? What is SAMe? And why should we care?
Not too many years ago, research scientists were asking themselves those very questions. Today, we are beginning to understand these vital aspects of metabolism, without which life could not exist. And we owe the exciting answers in part to two young children with a terrible condition and a research scientist with tenacity and an inquiring mind.
Where It All Began
Our story begins in Boston, in 1933, when an eight-year-old boy was brought to Massachusetts General Hospital. He was very ill and died of a stroke three days after he was admitted to the hospital. The autopsy showed that he had severe arteriosclerosis, so called hardening of the arteries, a condition of much older people. Stroke is highly unusual in children, and the case was written up in the New England Journal of Medicine. In 1965, another child was brought to the same hospital. She was also very ill and had many of the same symptoms as the boy brought in thirty years earlier. The mother mentioned that the little girl's uncle had had similar symptoms and died in childhood. Her doctors researched the case, and sure enough — the uncle of this little girl was the boy who had died of a stroke years earlier. A urine test showed that the little girl had very high levels of a substance called homocysteine, a condition that had come to be called homocystinuria.
These unusual cases came to the attention of a pathologist named Dr. Kilmer McCully, while he was working at Harvard Medical School in 1968. He was studying children with inborn (inherited) errors of metabolism that prevented them from using vitamins normally. Dr. McCully noticed that in addition to their obvious symptoms, the two children from Mass General had one thing in common: suspected high levels of homocysteine (suspected in the uncle, confirmed in the girl). As a result they and similar children studied by Dr. McCully suffered from a slew of maladies, including mental retardation, osteoporosis, and arteriosclerosis. After more study and research, he developed the theory that high levels of homocysteine were a key factor in these children's vascular and heart disease.
He also theorized that the moderately high levels of homocysteine found in many "healthy" people could increase their risk of heart disease as they grow older. As he writes in his book, The Heart Revolution, "In 1969 I first proposed the homocysteine theory of heart disease. When there is too much homocysteine in the blood, arteries are damaged and plaques form. The result is arteriosclerosis and heart disease. This happens when we don't get enough of certain vitamins — namely B, B, and folic acid."
This was a ground-breaking discovery, but the timing was unfortunate. At that time, cholesterol was thought to be the major culprit in heart disease, and that's where all the scientific and media attention focused. No one wanted to confuse the public or divert funding from researching cholesterol and developing cholesterol-lowering drugs. McCully insisted on contradicting the conventional wisdom that cholesterol was the main culprit in heart disease. As a result of steadfastly pursuing and promoting his theory, Dr. McCully lost his research funding and was forced to leave his position at Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital.
McCully persisted in promoting the homocysteine connection, and scientists slowly began to pay attention and study homocysteine more closely. Since then, hundreds of studies have proved McCully to be correct. Nearly thirty years after the medical community first became aware of the homocysteine-arteriosclerosis connection, the substance has been thrust into the limelight. Today it is being heralded as the "new cholesterol" and a major player in heart disease.
As you will see, while homocysteine is important, it is only part of the picture. The bigger picture involves processes that include homocysteine, the best known being methylation. Together, homocysteine and methylation are considered key components not only of the heart disease puzzle but also in many other degenerative diseases that continue to stump science, including cancer, osteoarthritis, and osteoporosis. These also appear to be important factors in birth defects and mental development. Recent evidence suggests that high levels of homocysteine may also be involved in Alzheimer's disease and possibly other aging-related disorders. How is it possible that one substance could be so destructive, and one natural process hold out such hope to so many in need of protection?
To understand the homocysteine-methylation connection, we need to review some basics of biology, the science of life. Taking even this tiny peek at the molecular workings of the human body will remind you of the awe-inspiring complexity, efficiency, and ingenuity of nature, while providing you with the underlying rationale for the methylation-enhancing program to come later in this book.
All life depends on basic biological processes. Metabolism is the overall term for the chemical processes by which living organisms regulate the body's growth and create energy. The starting point, of course, is food, air, and water — these are our raw materials for creating and using the energy that enables us to respond to stimuli, to grow, to maintain our tissues, to reproduce, and so on. Without energy you couldn't reach for the remote control, run a marathon, smile at your grandchild, or go shopping.
Proteins are the incredibly complex compounds from which living things are made. Proteins are found inside and outside our cells, as well as in the cell membranes, the "walls" surrounding these cells. Proteins provide structure and support to all parts of the cell as well as to other body structures. They are building blocks in the truest sense of the word. They also have many other jobs, for example they create many substances, including enzymes. Enzymes help our bodies produce energy and get things done. Enzymes "burn" sugar to produce energy, and they help break down food during digestion.
Amino acids are molecules that get together to create the complex proteins. Amino acids not only form protein, they have other special jobs as well. Until recently, scientists thought that the substance homocysteine was simply involved in protein metabolism, that is, the creation of proteins. We now know that homocysteine is a key amino acid that, harmful as it can be, is also instrumental in the methylation process.
Methylation is a process that involves groups of atoms called methyl groups, which are created by your body. A methyl group is composed of four atoms, one carbon atom and three hydrogen atoms. (Its chemical abbreviation reflects this — CH.) Methyl groups are created naturally in your body as part of methyl metabolism.
Methyl groups do not exist by themselves. They are usually attached, like an appendage, to neighboring molecules. During methylation, these methyl groups are transferred from one molecule to another. A molecule that has just had a new methyl group attached is said to be methylated; as a result of methylation, the molecule is transformed. The molecule that gave up its methyl group is said to be a methyl donor. What's so special about passing around a four-atom appendage? When methyl groups start being transferred, exciting things happen in the body.
Methylation is not a rare event. It is continually occurring, transforming untold millions of molecules throughout our bodies every second. This includes not only homocysteine but also hundreds of other compounds in our cells. Molecules receive methyl groups, then separate, recombine, separate, and on and on, forming, transforming, and reforming constantly in the biochemical dance of life.
The Role of Homocysteine
Homocysteine is a crucial part of the methylation process. When homocysteine is methylated, meaning when a methyl group is attached, it can act as a kind of carrier or intermediary that helps your body move methyl groups from one molecule to another. Once methylated, homocysteine changes its structure and activity; in other words, the molecule can do things it couldn't do before and can't do other things it could do before. So what's the point? Well, this is immensely useful because it enables your body to create new substances and get work done with a few basic tools. But too much homocysteine can be toxic rather than helpful.
Think of homocysteine as an exchange location, such as a traffic intersection. You are on one side of town and need to get to the other side of town. In order to do this, you need to go through a busy intersection. The busy intersection is necessary, but it is not a pleasant place to be and it exists only to get people across two intersecting roads. Similarly, homocysteine, though useful in moving methyl groups from one molecule to another, is not a pleasant place to be. When everything's working properly, your body quickly detoxifies homocysteine by turning it into something else until it is needed again. That's why in a healthy individual, homocysteine does not hang around, waiting to be used. It is constantly being created and transformed into something else on an as-needed basis in a never-ending cycle of use and reuse.
How does it all start? As a cycle, it is impossible to say. However, let us begin when your body uses methionine, another amino acid available in protein-rich food such as meat, fish, and dairy products, to produce homocysteine. This occurs when the methionine combines with a substance called ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which our bodies use as a storehouse for energy, to create SAMe. The SAMe molecule quickly donates its methyl group — SAMe is a methyl donor workhorse — to other molecules, which are then altered by the methyl group, in effect, creating thousands of the different compounds and proteins needed for healthy cells, tissues, and organs. Once SAMe has donated its methyl group, it breaks down to form homocysteine, most of which is almost immediately reconverted back to methionine with the help of the vitamins folate and B, or diverted to other amino acids. Homocysteine, then, is an important recycling point for the creation of thousands of compounds and proteins needed for healthy cells, tissues, and organs. Essentially, homocysteine is demethylated methionine, and methionine is methylated homocysteine.
The Role of Same
SAMe, (or SAM or AdoMet) an abbreviation for S-adenosylmethionine, is a metabolic helper that is produced during methylation and facilitates nearly all methylation reactions in your body. It is currently believed that in order for your body to produce SAMe, you need methionine, magnesium, and zinc, in addition to ATP.
As one of the primary methyl group donors, SAMe is extremely important and historically unappreciated. One of its many roles is methylating DNA. When DNA is properly laced with methyl groups, your cells are protected from the abnormal expression of DNA, a behavior associated with disease and aging. Aside from this role in DNA methylation, SAMe also acts as a natural antidepressant, possibly through its role in creating the neurotransmitter melatonin from serotonin. However, SAMe doesn't help to neutralize homocysteine. In fact, excess levels of SAMe could potentially lead to excess levels of homocysteine, which is why people who take SAMe as a supplement need to be careful.
How the Methylationprocess Deals With Homocysteine
So now your methionine and ATP have combined to form SAMe, SAMe has done some wonderful things, but you're left with homocysteine. Hardly a good situation. Luckily, there are two pathways through which homocysteine is converted back to methionine. Both ways require vitamins, which are essential substances that are generally not made in the body — we need to get them from food or supplements. One pathway requires the vitamins folate and B. Like B, folate is a member of the B vitamin complex (or family). There are many types of folate, but the type most often found in supplements is folic acid. Along this pathway, called the remethylation pathway, your body requires assistance from enzymes, which collaborate with B and folate, to help change homocysteine back to methionine. Enzymes are similar to catalysts. They act like pushy matchmakers, speeding up processes that otherwise would take a long time to occur.
The other pathway is through betaine. Betaine is a "quasi vitamin," but it's also a methyl donor. We can produce betaine in our bodies from another quasi vitamin called choline. But our bodies produce betaine slowly even under the best conditions, so like the B vitamins, we need to get most of our betaine from food. When betaine donates a methyl group to homocysteine, this also transforms homocysteine back into methionine.
Just as too much homocysteine isn't a good thing, too much methionine in your body can play a role in causing things to go awry. It may seem that methionine is "good" or harmless. But as is true of everything, too much of even a good thing can be harmful. It's true that it is usually beneficial when homocysteine is converted to methionine, because methionine is used to fuel the methylation process as well as create other useful substances, and because too much homocysteine is certainly harmful. However, too much methionine can cause elevated homocysteine in the blood. This is understandably confusing, but a look at the following diagram on the next page will help clear up the confusion. Notice how homoscysteine and methionine run around in a circle inside the cell, like a dog chasing its tail. This illustrates how methionine can be converted into SAMe or used to synthesize protein (this is good). But because of the circular exchange of homocysteine and methionine, methionine can also end up as homocysteine after it has been converted to SAMe and SAMe has done its job. Now it's easier to understand that any time homocysteine or methionine is added to the circular system without compensating for it, the balance can be thrown off. More methionine — for example, from too much protein in your diet — can therefore result in higher homocysteine.
Homocysteine is also detoxified and made harmless through a separate process called transsulfuration. This is a complicated process; all you need to know here is that it requires a sufficient amount of vitamin B, magnesium, and SAMe. Without enough B, you also get an excess of homocysteine which, as I have explained, can be detrimental in and of itself and can also slow the methylation process, which creates more problems.
When humans were eating more healthful diets, homocysteine was not a problem. But today's diet of highly processed foods has very few of the key homocysteine-controlling nutrients folate, B, and B. As you will see in later chapters, few Americans are getting even the government-recommended minimum requirement of these and many other nutrients needed for methylation. In addition, many of us are getting too much protein, and without a balance of other nutrients. Remember, protein is made of amino acids, and one of these is methionine. Methionine is changed into homocysteine — and if there is too much methionine to begin with, there may be too much homocysteine, resulting in an overflow that the body can't handle.
While elevated homocysteine is itself harmful, it is also a warning signal that many other cell functions that depend on the methylation of homocysteine may have gone awry. This makes sense if you think about it. If methylation were working at an optimal level, then homocysteine would be under control. So a higher than normal level of homocysteine is an indication that optimum methylation is not occurring. Or it may mean that other processes that are part of your metabolism (for example, transsulfuration) are not up to par.
When Things Go Right
When you have enough methyl groups and related nutrients (folate, B12, B6, zinc, magnesium, SAMe, etc.) and no other deficiencies, all goes well and methylation takes place at the required rate. Homocysteine is low, and most of the homocysteine stays safely sequestered inside the cells, where it is used and transformed over and over again (remember, there are two pathways that constantly recycle homocysteine back into methionine). This avoids any excess homocysteine that could spill into your blood and damage the blood vessels. (More about this in Chapter 2.)
Excerpted from "The Methylation Miracle"
Copyright © 1999 Paul Frankel, Ph.D..
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Note to Reader,
Introduction: Finding the Link,
Part I: Methylation and its role in Health and Disease,
Chapter 1: What Is Methylation?,
Chapter 2: Heart Disease and Methylation,
Chapter 3: Cancer and Methylation,
Chapter 4: Aging and Methylation,
Chapter 5: Other Diseases and Conditions,
Part II: The Methylation-Enhancing Program,
Chapter 6: Who Needs This Program?,
Chapter 7: Eat Naturally,
Chapter 8: Cultivate Healthful Habits,
Chapter 9: Supplement Wisely,
Chapter 10: Looking to the Future: Where Are We Now? Where Are We Going?,
Appendix A: Glossary,
Appendix B: Methyl Metabolism Tests,
Appendix C: Food Shopping Tips,
Appendix D: References,
About the Authors,