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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Will a Lab Test Change your Daily Folic Acid Regimen Some Day?

By Michael McBurney

Personal nutrition is getting closer to being a reality. And it isn’t likely to be a powder mix formulated to provide all the nutrients needed to meet the nutrient requirements of 97.5% of those of a certain age and gender, i.e. the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs).  Because that level of personalization is based on Estimated Average Requirements (EAR). Who among us is average? And if we are, then certainly our children are not!

Soon, nutrition requirements will be personalized by using genetic information which makes each of us unique. A health professional will take a sample, probably blood or saliva, and analyze it for genetic polymorphisms or other metabolic markers. By knowing these unique markers, nutrient recommendations can be individualized. Some will need more, some may need less of an essential nutrient. For example, let’s consider folic acid, a B vitamin, required for cell metabolism and proliferation. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in a key enzyme in folic acid metabolism, i.e. methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR), have been shown to affect folic acid status.  Solis and colleagues reported that individuals with the TT genotype need more dietary folic acid to maintain normal serum folate and homocysteine levels.

In a new study, Wu and colleagues conducted a case-control study (654 vs 455) to determine the impact of MTHFR SNPs on coronary heart disease (CHD). They report that the T allele of rs4846049 was associated with a 1.58 greater risk of CHD. This increased risk was seen in carriers of both the GT and TT alleles. Persons with the GG allele had the lowest CHD risk. They also had higher HDL-C and apoA levels.  Previously, Wald and colleagues reported that approximately 50% of men with the TT genotype had inadequate serum folate levels. Persons with this genotype may also have different choline requirements. In other words, people with the TT genotype may need to consume more folic acid than those with the GG genotype. The hypothetical average person in a group of 100 may actually be better imagined as two different groups with different folic acid requirements.

When the day arrives that gender and age-specific nutrient needs can be fine-tuned based on individual-specific biological data, nutritional needs will be personalized.  Using results from an individual’s biological measurement, health experts will give personalized nutrition guidance. And when that day comes, there will certainly be business opportunities to provide people with tasty, convenient, value-conscious individually-tailored solutions, be they food, supplement, powder or all of the above. -mm-


Solis C, Veenema K, Ivanov AA, Tran S, Li R, Wang W, Moriarity DJ, Maletz CV, Caudill MA. Folate intake at RDA levels is inadequate for Mexican American men with the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase 677TT genotype. 2008 J Nutr 138:67.

Wu C, Gong Y, Sun A, Zhang Y, Zhang C, Zhang W, Zhao G, Zou Y, Ge J. The human MTHFR rs4846049 polymorphism increases coronary heart disease risk through modifying miRNA binding. 2013 Nutr Metab CVD doi: 10/1016/j.numecd.2012.02.009.

Wald DS, Law M, Morris JK. The dose-response relation between serum homocysteine and cardiovascular disease: implications for treatment and screening. 2004 Eur J Cardiovasc Prev Rehabil. 3:250