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Vitamin B12 (also known as cobalamin) is an essential nutrient that you must get from food or supplements.


Vitamin B12 Anemia is a kind of megaloblastic anemia in which red blood cells appear oversized or misshapen under the microscope. In these situations the cells don’t perform their oxygen carrier role or other functions well.

B12 is key for normal development of red blood cells, DNA production, nerve function, and fatty acid and neurotransmitter synthesis….

…. No surprise that you want to get enough.

 

The fact is between 10% and 15% of the population is deficient and at risk for losing out on Vitamin B12 benefits.

 


Vitamin B12 Benefits - Why we don’t get enough

There are a few things to know about B12 to make sure you get enough; explain why you might not; and … most importantly… help you enjoy all the Vitamin B12 benefits.

 

1.       Reasons for deficiency - Only animal products contain B12

Top B12 Foods

  • Clams
  • Lamb and Beef Liver including beef & lamb
  • Lamb and Beef Kidney

Aim to consume only organic or free-range pastured meats, because toxin accumulation can be greater in organ meat than muscle meat.  Press here to read about the benefits of organic foods.

The catch …. and one reason why many people throughout the world don’t get their Vitamin B12 benefits is that the bioavailable kinds of B12 are only found in animal products.

The richest sources of B12 are organ meats and seafood with liver, kidney and clams topping the list. Not surprisingly, vegans or those not consuming much meat, often have low B12 levels.

If you don’t eat animal products, you’ll need to supplement B12 or eat fortified foods.

 

While some seaweeds and nutritional yeast contain a form of B12, it’s a type the body cannot utilize. These plant sources won’t help you reach your B12 requirements, despite claims otherwise.

 

2.       Reasons for deficiency - Poor absorption

Another issue in any discussion of B12 sufficiency is absorption. 

Many people don’t get their Vitamin B12 benefits, not for a lack of B12 foods, but because they can’t absorb the B12 they consume.

Vitamin B12 requires intrinsic factor (IF) and hydrochloric acid in order to be available to the body.

A significant part of the population doesn’t produce any or enough IF in the intestine. Many others have low stomach acid levels which reduce B12 availability.  In addition, the antibiotic chloramphenicol  and Metformin used to treat Type II diabetes have been reported to reduce B12 absorption

When B12 malabsorption arises from lack of IF, the deficiency is called pernicious anemia.  A Schilling test will tell you whether that’s the cause of your B12 insufficiency.

 

Levels of stomach acid, needed for effective B12 absorption, are often lower in

  1. older people;
  2. those who regularly use antacids; proton pump inhibitors to treat gastric reflux and peptic ulcers, and H2 receptor antagonists to treat peptic ulcers;
  3. those who have had bariatric surgery;
  4. those who suffer digestive conditions including IBS, Chron’s and colitis.  


The last two factors along with alcohol can also inhibit production and function of IF.

Without a doubt, absorption is the other side of the coin when it comes to getting your B12. While you may be consuming plenty of B12 foods, poor absorption could leave you out of luck when it comes to achieving Vitamin B12 benefits.

 

Vitamin B12 Benefits – How much?

The US government suggests the following minimum levels for B12.

US Vitamin B12 Recommend Daily Intakes

  • Birth -12 months - 65 mcg
  • 1-8 years - .9 - 1.2 mcg
  • 9-13 years – 1.8 mcg
  • 14 plus years– 2.4 mcg
  • Pregnant women – 2.6 mcg
  • Lactating women – 2.8 mcg

 

There is no government stated upper limit or known toxicity of too much Vitamin B12.

 


Vitamin B12 Benefits - What are signs of deficiency?

How can you tell, when you aren’t getting enough B12?

 

While blood test are the standard to determine B12 levels, blood may not necessarily reflect cellular levels of B12. This means you may have normal B12 blood levels but still show symptoms of deficiency.

 

B12 deficiency symptoms are similar to those of iron and folic acid deficiency anemia, with the addition of several neurological signs and include:

Folic Acid Deficiency is often confused for  folic acid deficiency – The result is that only folic acid is supplemented, which alone can mask, if not exacerbate, symptoms of B12 deficiency with  neurological damage continuing.  To avoid this possibility many experts advise always supplementing B12 when taking folic acid.

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Constipation
  • Weight loss
  • Numbness and tingling in extremities
  • Loss of balance
  • Confusion
  • Poor memory

The Connection between High Homocysteine and B12 – B12 is a methyl donor and for this reason can, along with Vitamin B6 (niacin) and folic acid, lower homocysteine and the risk of heart disease,  stroke, alzheimer’s among other conditions. You need adequate Vitamin B12 to keep homocysteine levels in check.

.
  • Depression
  • High homocysteine

 

Because signs of B12 deficiency are so varied, they can be confused with other health conditions including iron deficiency and folic acid deficiency anemia. It’s why B12 deficiency often goes undiagnosed.

….so pay attention, especially if you’re in group at risk for B12 deficiency.

 

 

Vitamin B12 Benefits -  Who is at risk for B12 deficiency?

Those at risk for not getting their vitamin B12 benefits include the following:

  • Older people.
  • People who don’t make any or enough intrinsic factor.
  • Those with digestive disorders like Chron’s, Celiac disease and IBS, which can impair absorption.
  • Those who’ve had bariatric surgery
  •  Vegans and vegetarians who eat little B12 rich foods
  • Alcohol can impair B12 absorption
  • People with low stomach acid levels including seniors or who regularly take antacids



 

Vitamin B12 Supplements - When food is not enough

Whether you’re not getting your Vitamin B12 benefits,  because of lack of B12 foods or poor B12  absorption, supplements can play a role. The cause of your B12 deficiency may dictate how you supplement.

Supplements are available in oral, sublingual and intramuscular injection forms. The last two are preferable, if your B12 deficiency is due to poor absorption. Sublingual tablets and injections bypass the stomach and any hydrochloric acid or intrinsic factor problems.

 

The most avaiable B12 supplements are cyanocobalamin, hydroxycobalamin, adenosylcobalamin and methylcobalamin.  

Methylcobalamin is the most common supplement form in the US.  Its primary advantage is it readily helps lower homocysteine.  If you have no absorption problems, oral dose is adequate.

 

 

Symptoms of Vitamin B 12 Deficiency Anemia –include mental impairment, fatigue, depression and nerve problems including tingling, neuropathy and numbness. Older people exhibiting confusion or balance problems should have their B12 levels checked as a matter of course.

Vitamin B12 Benefits from Food

 

When it comes to Vitamin B12 foods, animal products are the only source.

It’s why vegans are at higher risk for B12 anemia than meat eaters;  and why they must supplement B12 or risk suffering B12 anemia.  It may take several years after shifting to a vegan diet, before your B12 stores become exhausted. 

The standard vegan B12 supplements are made from bacteria synthesized from a bacteria culture. This is an effective way to prevent B12 deficiency. Some vegan foods are fortified with B12 bacteria. The label will indicate this if they are.

Some vegans purport to get B12 from  spirulina and marine algae. Studies confirm that neither forms are bio-available. The same goes for nutritional yeast, unless it is fortified specifically with B12.


Press here for a list of top B12 foods.

 



For more about Vitamin B12 Benefits and related topics…


For more about an Anemia Diet including Vitamin B12 Benefits, press here.

For Vitamin B12 Foods, press here.

For benefits of folic acid, press here.

 

Press here for anemia foods for folate-deficiency anemia.

Press here for more on the benefits of multi-vitamins.

Press here for more about the benefits of organic food, a particular issue when it comes to sourcing toxin-free B12- rich food.

 

 

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