Vitamin B-12 – A Truly Crucial Vitamin
Vitamin B-12, or cobalamin, is a water soluble vitamin, extremely effective in very, very small doses. The good news is that the liver has a large store of B-12. However the bad news is that depletion and deficiency is very hard to spot and might take five years or more to appear.
A 2008 Oxford University study (journal: Neurology) showed that older people with lower B 12 levels were 6 times more likely to exhibit brain shrinkage, and even the group of people having B-12 levels above those designated too low, developed dementia and other age related problems during the 5 year study.
Typically, symptoms include: Shortness of breath, fatigue, anaemia, weakness, fainting, dizziness, sores in the mouth, memory loss, dementia, slow reflexes, coldness or numbness in feet and hands.
Heart attacks have also been linked to low levels of vitamin B-12. (American Journal of Epidemiology Vol 143).
Several research studies have indicated that 40 per cent of the population could be short of vitamin B-12.
Until recently the recommended adult intake was in the region of just 3-5 micrograms per day. However research with heart disease patients has shown levels of 100-400 micrograms are much more beneficial.
Why is it so important?
The vitamin is crucial to life and to general health, being involved in almost every cellular system in the body. Over 300 enzymatic reactions use this vitamin in some way. Apart from dementia, fatigue and heart problems, some cancers (for exampl, breast cancer) are known to be associated with lowered levels of this vitamin.
In recent years scientists have become more and more knowledgeable and concerned about Vitamin B-12, particularly for people over the age of 50 and/or those on strict vegetarian diets. Some 72 per cent of vegetarians are deficient in this vitamin, as it is most readily found in meat.
The vitamin is known to help form and regenerate red blood cells
As you will read below, lowered B-12 levels are not so much about what we eat, but far more to do with our ability to RELEASE the vitamin from our food. Lowered levels of beneficial bacteria, coupled with increased levels of microbes and particularly Helicobacter pylori weaken our ability to release the vitamin from the food we consume, especially as we age. This is true of other essential B vitamins too.
A particular concern at CANCERactive is with those cancer patients who rush to change their diet as part of their personal cancer therapy programme, and become vegan or vegetarian. This can result in a further lowering of B-12 levels and it could be that their cancer was already associated with lowered levels of B-12. People who change their diet in this way may actually be compounding a problem. In these cases supplementation is almost certainly essential if only as insurance!.
Unfortunately, not all supplements were created equal. There is a considerable amount of dispute over the common (cheap and synthetic) supplement cyanocobalmin. Some nutritionists recommend the methylated version (the form that does occur naturally) methylcobalmin. The most natural form would be that available (and plentiful) in the food ´Chlorella´.
The vitamin is involved in all aspects of your good health. It is known to help form and regenerate red blood cells. It helps prevent cardiovascular disease by lowering blood levels of homocysteine; it promotes growth and appetite in children, improves brain power, concentration and memory, and is involved in a healthy nervous system. It helps maintain a fatty tissue known as the myelin sheath surrounding nerve cells. B-12 is also involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats and the synthesis of protein, DNA and RNA.
Finally, it has a complex interconnection with folic acid, a B vitamin essential for your health, including accurate DNA replication – thus the concern about its role in cancer. The body simply cannot use folic acid without B-12.