The guy you're linking to seems sketchy as hell.

I agree. The reason I chose that specific page is because I did not find an adequate alternative list. I tried Googling "symptoms of MTHFR" and "symptoms of MTHFR" and only one result comes up - but it's specifically for homocysteinemia. That one result is reputable ( but I know that it does not contain a full list of symptoms. It has left out important symptoms like depression and fatigue, which I know to be associated with MTHFR because I know people with the condition whose medical professionals have said that those symptoms can be caused by MTHFR and whose fatigue and/or depression symptoms were helped immensely by MTHFR treatment, and because I saw research on PubMed (searched it again since I have no idea where it is) linking MTHFR with depression and finding that using methyfolate as part of the treatment has an effect on depression. I could go with the shorter symptom list for homocysteinemia, but since I know that it is inadequate, I figured the longer symptom list would likely result in more people getting MTHFR tests and useful treatment.

There's an elephant in the room here: why doesn't there seem to be a good symptom list? If the fact that there are 5073 results for MTHFR on PubMed means anything at all, MTHFR is probably a real mutation with the potential to cause health effects. I suspect that it's because we discovered MTHFR fairly recently and research results can be confusing because most of them are wrong, so perhaps the credible sources don't want to take the chance on listing symptoms that they're not completely certain are associated with MTHFR. This of course would not mean that people are not sick. It would just mean that the only people who have the guts to try to give people some idea of what MTHFR does to you are people who don't have that kind of credibility to lose.

Perhaps your point here is to give me a heads-up along the lines of "people might get confused and think you are recommending the this guy". That would be a good heads-up if so. Since it has occurred to me, I decided to add a disclaimer to my P/S/A comment.

if you have MTHFR, taking more folic acid...

As a non-medical doctor having a discussion with a psychiatrist to humor curiosities:

My understanding is that if you have MTHFR, you've got a reduced ability to process folic acid into methylfolate, and methylfolate is the usable version. Therefore taking additional folic acid isn't necessarilly going to result in you utilizing the folic acid. Additionally, if you cannot process the folic acid, it sits around in your system waiting for you to clean it out. If your folic acid is synthetic as opposed to food-based, there can be issues with the synthetic folic acid sitting around not being utilized. The claim I heard was that it's this unutilized synthetic folic acid that causes autism.

the implication being that in countries with folic acid supplementation

That's interesting. Have you taken an interest in MTHFR or were your perspectives formed based on research you did after reading this PSA? I'm asking you because if it turns out that you've got a significant interest in MTHFR, I'd be interested in hearing what else you know about it. If not, I should probably regard your forays into MTHFR research as being about as useful as mine since, without reading a ton of research, any perspectives we build are going to be suceptible to the "most published research findings are false" problem.

sign up for 23andMe and get all your common mutations sequenced in one go for $99

I chose not to recommend that for the following reasons:

A. (As a non-lawyer) I believe that it is now illegal for U.S. health insurance companies to discriminate against you based on the results of genetic testing, but there may be no protection in other countries that LessWrong readers are from (and 50% of them visit from outside the U.S.).

B. (As a non-lawyer) I believe that it is still legal for U.S. life insurance and disability insurance companies to discriminate against you on the basis of genetic testing.

C. If I remember correctly, the 23 and me test is is not an official medical test. I was told by a doctor that when comparing the 23 and me results to a different test that uses blood instead of saliva and does qualify as a medical test, that the results are very close. I was also told a lot of things about it by a person with a biology degree that made me realize how complicated genetic testing is. I'm not sure whether 23 and me should be recommended in place of a medical test.

D. I was initially very squicked by 23 and me because the only PDF of theirs that I could find that has an accuracy citation produces a 404 error when you click it. I have since gotten citations from them, after bugging the heck out of customer service and explaining what "real citation" means. Upon reviewing the citations, I realized that I was in over my head because I didn't know a lot of the terms they were using. I am no longer squicked, but it's mostly because a few people I think are probably trustworthy told me that 23 and me is useful. I still wonder whether I should consider them dodgy due to the failure to provide a real accuracy citation in their PDF.

In any case, you can supplement with MTHF if you want

Self-treating with methylfolate may not be a good idea. Here's why.

The only exception is that if your psychiatrist recommends it for depression, you will need the MTHF version since the normal version can't directly enter the brain.

I see now that actually did not list depression as a symptom by itself. They've got depression in post-menopausal women and "Infant depression via epigenetic processes caused by maternal depression" but not plain "depression". Is your take on it that MTHFR can cause depression and/or that methylfolate can be useful for treating depression?

As far as I know, the MTHF you can get off Amazon for $15 works exactly as well.

I have checked out dozens and dozens of supplement review results on, perhaps over a hundred. My findings are that many of the brands tested were shown to offer one or more supplements that contain lead, spoiled ingredients, or they did not contain the amount of the substance(s) advertized. I would not go get a random cheap one on Instead, I would find one of these brands:

Brands with 30 reviews each and a perfect record on consumerlab as of June 2013:

  • Solgar

  • Puritan's Pride

  • Vitamin World

  • Nature's Bounty

Brands with an acceptable record as of June 2013:

  • Jarrow (17 reviews, all passed except one with a labeling issue)

Note: Puritan's Pride, Vitamin World and Nature's Bounty are all related. I think they're all owned by the same company.

I plan to start a blog containing my supplement research and other life optimizing research at some point in the future (or perhaps find a relevant one to post on, since LessWrong is about rationality, not optimizing one's life). I can update you when my supplement data is posted if you'd like.

As a non-medical doctor having a discussion with a fellow non-medical doctor to humor curiosities:

Are you talking to someone other than Yvain, about whom you wrote this remark?

Public Service Announcement Collection

by Eliezer Yudkowsky 1 min read27th Jun 2013330 comments


P/S/A:  There are single sentences which can create life-changing amounts of difference.

  • P/S/A:  If you're not sure whether or not you've ever had an orgasm, it means you haven't had one, a condition known as primary anorgasmia which is 90% treatable by cognitive-behavioral therapy.
  • P/S/A:  The people telling you to expect above-trend inflation when the Federal Reserve started printing money a few years back, disagreed with the market forecasts, disagreed with standard economics, turned out to be actually wrong in reality, and were wrong for reasonably fundamental reasons so don't buy gold when they tell you to.
  • P/S/A:  There are many many more submissive/masochistic men in the world than there are dominant/sadistic women, so if you are a woman who feels a strong temptation to command men and inflict pain on them, and you want a large harem of men serving your every need, it will suffice to state this fact anywhere on the Internet and you will have fifty applications by the next morning.
  • P/S/A:  Most of the personal-finance-advice industry is parasitic and/or self-deluded, and it's generally agreed on by economic theory and experimental measurement that an index fund will deliver the best returns you can get without huge amounts of effort.
  • P/S/A:  If you are smart and underemployed, you can very quickly check to see if you are a natural computer programmer by pulling up a page of Python source code and seeing whether it looks like it makes natural sense, and if this is the case you can teach yourself to program very quickly and get a much higher-paying job even without formal credentials.