View Full Version : Vitamin B12 and your health

12-02-09, 11:01 AM
Tuesday | November 17, 2009

Vitamins are are essential to our health and cannot be manufactured by the body.

It is one of the B vitamins that plays an important role in the metabolism of every cell. It contains cobalt compounds known as cobalamins of which cyanocobalamin is the most popular.

B12 and your nervous system

Our nerves may be compared to electrical wires that are wrapped in an insulating sheath made from myelin.

Vitamin B12 is necessary for the production of myelin and healthy nerves. A damaged myelin sheath leads to short circuiting and electrical static in our nervous system.

Thus, B12 deficiency can produce nerve problems as widespread as depression, fatigue, poor memory, migraine headaches, tingling and numbness, sleep disorders, symptoms of dementia, psychosis, hyperactivity, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Multiple Sclerosis, spinal cord disease, peripheral neuropathy and optic nerve damage leading to blindness.

B12 and Anaemia

A lack of vitamin B12 can result in a condition called pernicious anaemia characterised by unhealthy, abnormally large red blood cells. As B12 is needed for red blood cell formation, a chronic lack of B12 will eventually lead to anaemia. Left untreated, pernicious anaemia can inflict permanent and severe damage to your body.

B12 and Heart Disease

A high blood level of homocysteine is more a risk factor for heart disease and stroke than a high cholesterol level. Studies show that low levels of vitamin B12 and folic acid can elevate your homocysteine levels. Correcting that deficiency with these inexpensive vitamins will decrease your risk for heart disease and stroke.

B12 and Cancer

Vitamin B12 plays an important role in DNA production and repair. Damage to DNA is a well-known risk factor for cancer.

Adequate B12 in your cells, along with folic acid, helps to reduce damage to your genetic material. Low levels of B12 are linked to increased risk for stomach, breast and cervical cancer.

B12, Pregnancy and Fertility

Pregnant women with B12 deficiency have an increased risk of having a baby born with a type of birth defect affecting the infant's brain and spinal cord like Spina bifida.

B12 deficiency is also linked to infertility and repeated miscarriages. On the male side, a low sperm count is associated with a low B12 level that improves with B12 supplementation.

Who is at Risk?

If you have any of the problems mentioned above, you should check your B12 status. Belonging to one of the following categories, will also increase your risk of B12 deficiency.

You are a vegetarian - strict vegetarian diets are often B12-deficient. B12 is best found in animal foods although only bacteria
can make this vitamin.

You are over 50 - age decreases your ability to absorb B12 from your food. As you get older, the lining of your stomach gradually loses its ability to produce hydrochloric acid, an intrinsic factor necessary for vitamin B12 absorption from your food. If you're over 50, you are probably not absorbing vitamin B12 optimally.

You take medication - antacids or anti-ulcer medication, metformin for diabetes, antibiotics anti-psychotics, anti-cancer medications, tuberculosis medications, anticonvulsants, birth control pills, anti-gout medications, cholesterol-lowering drugs, anti-hypertensives, and drugs for Parkinson's disease
- these may all interfere with your absorption of B12, as will a high coffee and alcohol consumption.

You have stomach problems - indigestion, heartburn, GERD, Helicobacter pylori infections - the stomach needs to produce a special protein called intrinsic factor for B12 to be absorbed. With these digestive problems, there is a deficiency of intrinsic factor. Stomach surgery can also create this problem.

Testing for B12 Deficiency

Blood tests for vitamin B12 deficiency are not as helpful as they are for other nutritional problems. This is because the clinical severity of vitamin B12 deficiency often co-relates poorly with the B12 levels in the blood. I recommend that at risk individuals have their blood tested annually.

If you have concerns that you are vitamin B12 deficient, it is practical to supplement and see if your symptoms improve. Vitamin B12 supplementation is completely non-toxic and relatively cheap.

Sources of B12

Healthy natural sources of B12 include seafood, organic meats and poultry, eggs, raw organic cows and goats milk. Supplementing with the Cellular Nutrition Programme provides vitamin B12 in a highly absorbable form. You can also use injections (most effective), sublingual tablets or oral pills. Particularly if you have nervous system problems, I strongly recommend the injections. A special form of B12 called methylcobalamin may be even more effective in those cases than the regular cyanocobalamin.