Genetics: COMT and Risk Taking

COMT stands for Catechol-O-Methyltransferase. There are several genes/enzymes in this methylation process. COMT V158M polymorphisms (differences, i.e. heterozygous or homozygous mutations) is becoming one of the more popular differences associated with certain imbalances in mood and behavior and recently in decision making, but there are many COMT genes. Heterozygous or homozygous differences will either accelerate or decrease processes involved in dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and estrogen. When the alleles are a pair of A’s (also known as Met version) an individual may find their dopamine levels run on the high side with the processes happening at a slower pace, but the trade off in this scenario may be depleted serotonin levels leading to depression and other imbalances associated with low serotonin such as anxiety, carbohydrate and sugar cravings, sleeplessness and gut issues. Further imbalances happen when the MTHFR shows polymorphisms. Slow processes may contribute to a low tolerance to pain, but may be better at processing information. These individuals are more likely to learn from avoiding bad experiences and taking more time to make decisions.  When the allele’s are a pair of G’s (known as the Val version of the amino acid/protein coding) the process may be happening at a faster rate which may lead to low levels of dopamine. Low levels of dopamine may contribute to imbalances such as irritability, less risk taking, maybe even lacking in cognitive performance. Imbalances in dopamine levels may even correlate to a greater risk for addictive behavior.  Supplements that may help in the face of these polymorphisms are magnesium, l-theanine, and depending on the need for dopamine supplements such as l-tyrosine, and Vitamin D. Need for serotonin may be helped with 5HTP as long as the individual is not taking an antidepressant. Gut issues need to be addresses and other methylation pathways such as MTHFR to make sure a greater sense of well-being is achieved over the long run.