There is a lot of misinformation spreading online about a gene all of us have called MTHFR. (We each have two copies it, actually: one from mom and one from dad.)
Self Magazine published an article this week specifically addressing the MTHFR gene and all the facts we know about it. It was written by Tara C. Smith, a person with a PhD in epidemiology. Epidemiology is the study of how different factors influence the health of people, and those with a PhD are trained to understand the outcome of studies at both the group level (large populations) and at the individual level (YOU!).
I read this article yesterday and feel like it is the BEST ARTICLE to date on MTHFR. It will be accessible to most readers, no matter your level of knowledge about DNA or genetics research.
Before you believe what you read online about MTHFR, stop and ask yourself, "Does the person writing this have advanced training in genetics and in interpreting studies about human populations?"
I encourage Self.com and other media outlets to keep up the great work of fact-based reporting on complex subjects like genetics, making sure they are written by people with advanced training in genetics. A chiropractic degree or a naturopath license are not substitutes for this, no matter how many nutrigenomics trainings one of these practitioners accumulates.
If you're a consumer, don't fall for the scare tactics of businesses who have a financial interest in selling you dietary supplements! You don't need to take supplements based on your MTHFR gene and if someone is talking about detox, methylation, and supplementation treatments, keep on educating yourself.
If you're still not convinced and are concerned about stopping a vitamin regimen someone has recommended to you, talk to your doctor about testing your homocysteine level, then go from there. The homocysteine level in someone's blood tells us more about how that person processes folate, not a DNA test.
The internet is a wild place and now that DNA testing is so pervasive, there will only be more people to come who want to use and abuse DNA to convince you to buy their thing!
What can clinical genetics offices do to help people who would like to be seen as a result of their MTHFR results? I brainstormed a few ideas today:
Add a requirement that patients must have serum homocysteine ordered by their doctor before scheduling
Create a fact sheet similar to this one, but brand it for your clinic so you can customize it/patients can learn your clinic’s approach to MTHFR: https://www.genetics.edu.au/health-professionals/FS64-MTHFR-GENE-TESTING-FOR-PATIENTS.pdf
Designate a monthly or quarterly group counseling session to address questions about MTHFR
Create a webinar patients can attend to learn/ask Qs
MTHFR presents a challenge, but that means we have an opportunity to educate and address the underlying reasons a person sought out MTHFR results in the first place. Alternative service delivery models of genetic counseling provision are necessary moving forward. I’m excited to see how my colleagues will respond!
Additional links to medical society positions on MTHFR:
American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics: https://www.acmg.net/docs/MTHFR_gim2012165a_Feb2013.pdf
American Academy of Family Physicians: https://www.aafp.org/afp/recommendations/viewRecommendation.htm?recommendationId=283
Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine: http://www.choosingwisely.org/societies/society-for-maternal-fetal-medicine/
American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23963422