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Co-enzyme B Complex Uncovered

Wednesday April 25, 2018
Co-enzyme B Complex Uncovered

We have known for more than a century that no two people are truly identical, our fingerprints identify us as individuals and, in modern times, we can even delve at a micro-level into the genes to see our differences.

This genetic exploration has identified a wide range of flaws and anomalies in our genes, some of which impact negatively on our health.

This article uncovers the little-known genetic variant that leads to 8% of the population struggling to process and utilise some important vitamins.

Metabolically functional nutrients

We are largely ignorant of the automatic body processes that occur with every heartbeat, yet it can be advantageous to understand the basics of how the body works and how nutrition plays a role to support and achieve efficient functioning.

Body processes are referred to as pathways or metabolism, and the catalysts of all body processes are enzymes.  Therefore, all ‘pathways’ or ‘metabolism’ are driven by enzymatic reactions that produce an outcome, such outcomes include; energy production, hormone production or liver detoxification, and so on.  

Enzymes are protein molecules that initiate a transformation of a compound often within the cell, while co-enzymes are nutrients that turbo-charge the enzymatic reaction. In short, enzymes speed up body processes with the aid of co-enzymes.  Hence, the reason that nutrients ie: vitamins and minerals are considered essential for health.  

Many early biochemical investigations were devoted to learning the biological functions of essential nutrients.  A general principle that emerged at the time was that a vitamin had to be transformed or ‘metabolised’ into another compound further down the metabolic pathway in order to be functional or ‘active’.  Typically, this stage of metabolism occurs in the liver, however, those with liver issues or myalgia conditions may find the transformation slow and difficult.

A solution to nutrient metabolism malfunction  

B vitamins are water soluble vitamins, molecularly similar yet distinct and are proliferative co-enzymes.  Table 1 gives a summary of the biological processes in which the B vitamin family are involved.  In the healthy individual vitamins B2 and B6 undergo phosphorylation in the liver to transform into the ‘active’ form that perform as co-enzymes.  

Additionally, vitamin B12 is ‘active’ as both the adenosylcobalamin and methylcobalamin forms, each owning unique properties and specific functions as co-enzymes.  Conversely, when co-enzymes are insufficient; fatigue, hormonal imbalance, brain fog arise besides vitamin-deficiency states such as pellagra, beriberi or pernicious anaemia.  


Thiamine, B1Normal energy yielding metabolism, normal functioning of the nervous system, normal psychological function and normal heart function.
Riboflavin, B2
Normal energy yielding metabolism, normal functioning of the nervous system, maintenance of normal red blood cells and the reduction of tiredness and fatigue.
Niacin, B3Normal psychological function, normal energy yielding metabolism, normal functioning of the nervous system and reduction of tiredness and fatigue.
Pantothenic acid, B5Normal energy yielding metabolism, normal mental performance and reduction of tiredness and fatigue.
Pyridoxine, B6Normal energy yielding metabolism, normal functioning of the nervous system, normal homocysteine metabolism, reduction of tiredness and fatigue and regulation of hormonal activity.
Cobalamin, B12Normal energy yielding metabolism, normal homocysteine metabolism, reduction of tiredness and fatigue and plays a role in the process of cell division.
Biotin, B7Normal energy yielding metabolism, normal functioning of the nervous system, normal macronutrient metabolism and normal psychological function.
Folate, B9Normal maternal folate status and the reduction of the risk of neural tube defects.
CholineNormal homocysteine metabolism, normal lipid metabolism and the maintenance of liver function.
Table 1: B vitamins and their role in biological processes

Genetic Considerations

Due to recent technical advances in genetic screening; DNA information can be easily accessed by all, rather than just the medical community.  Genetic profiling elicits not only the personal DNA signature but potentially the rate of genetic errors, otherwise known as polymorphisms.  

When a polymorphism is present in greater than 1% of the population it becomes officially recognised.  One gene in particular; Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) gene has become recognised and thoroughly researched due to the potential impacts upon human health. Although this gene has more than 40 potential genetic errors linked to it, two in particular have been examined.
The MTHFR gene operates the MTHFR enzyme which requires vitamins B12 (as methylcobalamin) and folate (as methyltetrahydrofolate) as co-enzymes and lies within a complex pathway called the methylation cycle.  The MTHFR enzyme acts as the gatekeeper for the methylation pathway and consequently, those with a polymorphism on the MTHFR gene, experience a reduced activity of the corresponding enzymatic reaction.  

This is estimated at 8-20% of the UK population and so, for this group of individuals it can be useful to supplement directly with the co-enzymes in their active forms - methylcobalamin B12 and 5-methyltetrahydrofolate while considering pyridoxal-5-phosphate and riboflavin-5-phosphate.

Energy-boosting support

One of the most common 21st century health complaints is lack of energy and the feeling of listlessness or lethargy.  Nutrient-dense foods not only fuel energy but provide the co-enzyme nutrients (vitamins and minerals) to catalyse efficient energy production.  
The mitochondria are the hub of energy production, often referred to as the ‘human powerhouses’ and are present in every single cell of the human body. 

Two supportive energy-boosting, naturally-occurring, compounds are co-enzyme Q10 and NADH.

Co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is naturally produced by the body to facilitate energy production, yet synthesis of this crucial nutrient can be impaired with age, medications and stress.  CoQ10 works within the mitochondria as a co-enzyme to catalyse the production of energy.  

Furthermore, CoQ10 has a potent antioxidant potential through its ability to quell free radicals; the aggressive molecules produced during energy production, therefore preserving the health of cells and tissues.  

A dynamic compound produced from vitamin B3 is Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, known as NADH; which is transformed back and forth to NAD+ to produce energy.  The healthy individual can make NADH from dietary tryptophan and vitamin B3.  Yet it is questionable as to the efficiency of this transformation in those with fatigue or myalgia conditions.  

Go ‘active’?

Most healthy people will gain sufficient nutrients from food and food supplements to efficiently transform them into the active co-enzyme form, but those with liver conditions or who have a genetic error as disclosed by DNA screening, will have difficulty.  B vitamins supplemented in a phosphorylated or methylated form may improve these individuals’ ability to utilise the nutrients.

Furthermore, those suffering with fatigue or myalgia conditions may find greater benefit when supplementing with the ‘active’ forms.

Author: Jenny Hall is a Nutritional Practitioner and Technical Advisor at Viridian Nutrition. She holds a BSc honours degree in Nutritional Science.

The information contained in this article is not intended to treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a health practitioner. Please consult a qualified health practitioner if you have a pre-existing health condition or are currently taking medication. Food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet.


TAGS: Brain HealthBrain, Cognitive Health


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