Why B12 is so vital for Health?
Vitamin B12 depletion and deficiency are much more common than previously thought, especially in the over-60 population. In fact, its believed that almost one in four people over 60 have deficient levels of this vital vitamin.
Equally disturbing are emerging signs that other age groups harbor suboptimal blood levels of B12 as well.
Why is vitamin B12 deficiency such a big deal?
Your body depends on vitamin B12 for a host of functions, including:
Helping to maintain normal energy levels*
Promoting healthy neurological activity, including mental alertness*
Supporting normal homocysteine levels for healthy cardiac function*
Helping to ease occasional stress and sleeplessness*
Maintaining healthy cell growth and repair*
Promoting normal immune function*
Supporting normal metabolism of carbohydrates and fats*
When your blood levels of vitamin B12 are low, one or more of these functions may be disrupted.*
Without adequate blood levels of B12, you can experience symptoms related to low energy, mental fatigue, mood changes, sleep difficulties, and even occasional indigestion.*
Your body relies on the efficient conversion of carbohydrates to glucose – your body’s source of fuel – just like your car needs to be able to use gas to run smoothly. Vitamin B12 plays a major role in that conversion in your body.* Likewise, B12 enables your body to convert fatty acids into energy as well.*
Contrary to what you might have heard, there’s really no solid evidence that supplemental vitamin B12 helps you lose weight.
Overall, vitamin B12 is a nutrient your body cannot do without for efficient, healthy metabolism of fats and carbohydrates.*
The older you get the more your digestive system breaks down, especially if you have been following the standard American diet. Specifically the lining of your stomach gradually loses its ability to produce hydrochloric acid which releases vitamin B12 from your food. The use of antacids or anti-ulcer drugs will also lower your stomach acid secretion and decrease your ability to absorb vitamin B12. Infection with Helicobactor pylori, a common contributor to stomach ulcers, can also result in vitamin B12 deficiency.
However, the main cause of vitamin B12 deficiency is a term researchers call food-cobalamin malabsorption syndrome. Cobalamin is the scientific term for vitamin B12. This typically results when your stomach lining loses its ability to produce intrinsic factor which is a protein that binds to vitamin B12 and allows your body to absorb it at the end of your small intestine.
If you often feel tired, run-down, and lacking in energy, you’re not alone. Low energy is one of our country’s biggest health complaints.
Some of the top reasons for this are:
Refined foods sold in grocery stores are depleted of vital nutrients
Refined foods are loaded with sugar
Refined foods are full of chemicals
Refined foods are overloaded with food colorings; and
Refined foods are loaded with preservatives
For starters, vitamin B12 helps folic acid regulate the formation of red blood cells, and helps your body use iron.*
In addition, it is also needed for proper digestion, food absorption, carbohydrate and fat metabolism.* It also helps keep your nervous system healthy by assisting the nerves of your body to function and communicate in an optimal manner.*
But that’s not all…far from it!
B12 also helps in cell formation and cellular longevity.* Plus, it can support female reproductive health, and promote normal nerve growth and development by maintaining the fatty sheaths.* These fatty sheaths play a vital role as they cover and protect your nerve endings.*
What’s more, this workhorse of a micronutrient is critical to your circulation and adrenal hormone production — plus, it helps boost your immunity.* And, oh yes, let’s not forget…
Vitamin B12 supports a healthy mood and feelings of well-being.* And then there’s this — it also provides excellent support for your memory, mental clarity, and concentration.*
Aside from using B12 to give you an energy boost, when does it also make sense to supplement with this all-important vitamin? Well, there are several good reasons to take vitamin B12.
And the first reason to take it is if you are a carb type or a strict vegetarian.
Many people avoid red meats for a large variety of reasons. If you are one of them, you are at a high risk for developing vitamin B12 deficiency. Why? Because plant sources have virtually no vitamin B12. And oral forms of B12 in nearly all supplements are practically useless, as little is absorbed into your bloodstream.
Vegetarians should take this essential micronutrient to ensure an adequate supply of it, because it is found almost exclusively in animal tissues. And, the few plant foods that are sources of B12 are actually B12 analogs — not the form that provides all the benefits of the real deal.
Simply put, an analog is a substance that blocks the uptake of true B12. The result being, your body’s need for the nutrient actually increases.
Furthermore, your body’s need for this nutrient may also increase if you take Metformin©. Metformin may interfere with calcium metabolism. And this interference may reduce B12 absorption, because this absorption requires calcium.
Studies suggest that 10% to 30% of patients taking Metformin show evidence of reduced vitamin B12 absorption. That’s why it is important to speak with your doctor to discuss the best way to maintain B12 levels when taking this medication.
B12 plays a vital role in melatonin production.* Melatonin has been called “the sleep hormone” because it is responsible for letting you get a good night’s sleep.
As you age, it becomes increasingly more difficult to get a good night’s sleep because your body becomes less efficient at making this hormone. And that’s why it’s a good idea to take B12 to help you sleep like a baby each night.*
Moreover, a lack of adequate B12 can have other annoying consequences too.
Most commercial supplements contain 100-200 micrograms of B12. But, if you actually took 500 micrograms of B12, you’d get an absorption of about 1.8 micrograms. That’s an absorption rate of only one third of one percent! I recommend taking B12 sublingually[under the tongue] or by injection.
What does vitaminB12do?
The human body needs vitamin B12 to make red blood cells, nerves, DNA, and carry out other functions. The average adult should get 2.4 micrograms a day. Like most vitamins, B12cant be made by the body. Instead, it must be gotten from food or supplements.
And therein lies the problem: Some people dont consume enough vitamin B12 to meet their needs, while others cant absorb enough, no matter how much they take in. As a result, vitamin B12 deficiency is relatively common, especially among older people. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey estimated that 3.2% of adults over age 50 have a seriously low B12 level, and up to 20% may have a borderline deficiency.
Are you at risk?
There are many causes for vitamin B12 deficiency. Surprisingly, two of them are practices often undertaken to improve health: a vegetarian diet and weight-loss surgery.
Plants dont make vitamin B12. The only foods that deliver it are meat, eggs, poultry, dairy products, and other foods from animals. Strict vegetarians and vegans are at high risk for developing a B12 deficiency if they dont eat grains that have been fortified with the vitamin or take a vitamin supplement. People who have stomach stapling or other form of weight-loss surgery are also more likely to be low in vitamin B12 because the operation interferes with the bodys ability to extract vitamin B12 from food.
Conditions that interfere with food absorption, such celiac or Crohns disease, can cause B12trouble. So can the use of commonly prescribed heartburn drugs, which reduce acid production in the stomach (acid is needed to absorb vitamin B12). The condition is more likely to occur in older people due to the cutback in stomach acid production that often occurs with aging.
Recognizing a B12 deficiency
Vitamin B12 deficiency can be slow to develop, causing symptoms to appear gradually and intensify over time. It can also come on relatively quickly. Given the array of symptoms it can cause, the condition can be overlooked or confused with something else. Symptoms may include:
- strange sensations, numbness, or tingling in the hands, legs, or feet
- difficulty walking (staggering, balance problems)
- a swollen, inflamed tongue
- yellowed skin (jaundice)
- difficulty thinking and reasoning (cognitive difficulties), or memory loss
- paranoia or hallucinations
While an experienced physician may be able to detect a vitamin B12 deficiency with a good interview and physical exam, a blood test is needed to confirm the condition.
Early detection and treatment is important. If left untreated, the deficiency can cause severe neurologic problems and blood diseases, says Dr. Bruce Bistrian, chief of clinical nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
Its a good idea to ask your doctor about having your B12 level checked if you:
- are over 50 years old
- take a proton-pump inhibitor (such as Nexium or Prevacid) or H2 blocker (such as Pepcid or Zantac)
- take metformin (a diabetes drug)
- are a strict vegetarian
- have had weight-loss surgery or have a condition that interferes with the absorption of food
A serious vitamin B12 deficiency can be corrected two ways: weekly shots of vitamin B12 or daily high-dose B12 pills. A mild B12 deficiency can be corrected with a standard multivitamin.
In many people, a vitamin B12 deficiency can be prevented. If you are a strict vegetarian or vegan, its important to eat breads, cereals, or other grains that have been fortified with vitamin B12, or take a daily supplement. A standard multivitamin delivers 6 micrograms, more than enough to cover the average bodys daily need.
If you are over age 50, the Institute of Medicine recommends that you get extra B12 from a supplement, since you may not be able to absorb enough of the vitamin through foods. A standard multivitamin should do the trick.
Not a cure
The Internet is full of articles lauding the use of vitamin B12 to prevent Alzheimers disease, heart disease, and other chronic conditions or reverse infertility, fatigue, eczema, and a long list of other health problems. Most are based on poor or faulty evidence.
Take Alzheimers disease as an example. Although there is a relationship between low vitamin B12 levels and cognitive decline, clinical studiesincluding those involving people with Alzheimers diseasehave not shown improvement in cognitive function, even doses of the vitamin as high as 1000 micrograms
Vitamin B12 along with the other key vitamins are essential to achieve Total Wellness.