One of the most overlooked supplements on the market is Vitamin B12.Your body needs this vitamin, in combination with other B vitamins, to maintain a healthy nervous system, maintain energy levels and production of good DNA. All very important processes to your everyday existence.
The number one symptom for Vitamin B12 deficiency is feeling tired and lethargic. The B-Complex vitamins play an important role in carbohydrate digestion and energy production. Without all of the proper components this system can breakdown and cause a these symptoms. If left without diagnosis or treatment, B12 deficiency can lead to a serious medical condition, Pernicious Anemia. The symptoms of B12 deficiency include; shortness of breath, fatigue, rapid heart rate, loss of appetite, diarrhea, tingling and numbness of hands and feet, sore mouth, unsteady gait, especially in the dark, tongue problems, impaired smell and bleeding gums. A high intake of Folic Acid can hide B12 deficiency. This condition is easily fixed by adding B12 rich foods to your diet or taking supplements. In most cases, Vitamin B12 should be taken in conjunction with a Folic Acid supplement and a B-Complex vitamin.
Because of changing diets, and highly processed food, there has been a significant increase in Vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 is found in red meat, eggs, dairy and fish. There are no know sources of Vitamin B12 in vegetables. At one time it was quite common to feast on organ meat, but you would be hard press to find a fast food restaurant serving steak and kidney pie or liver and onions! The modern diets has led to a decline in nutritionally balanced diets. The highest sources of B12 can be found in mollusks / clams (85 micrograms per 3oz portion) and beef liver (47 micrograms per 3oz portion). Over cooking can lead to the breakdown of the vitamins. If those are not to you your liking then salmon, trout and beef are medium sources with about 5 micrograms per 3 oz portion. Over cooking these foods can significantly reduce the quantity and quality of nutrients.
If oysters and organ meat are not to your liking then Vitamin B12 supplements will work perfectly well. There are a number of forms of B12, and this list will help you pick the proper supplement for your conditions. When in doubt, contact your doctor or use Methylcobalamin.
Methylcobalamin is a coenzyme form of Vitamin B12 which is biologically active. This means that your body can use it as is, and does not require any metabolic steps to make it body friendly. The product comes in a sublingual tablet (dissolves under your tongue) because your digestive system modifies the molecule. The sublingual method allows the vitamin to directly enter your bloodstream, providing rapid benefits.
Cyanocobalamin is a synthetic, and inactive, form of Vitamin B12 that requires a number of metabolic processes to gain any benefit. This can be problematic in people with certain deficiencies and health issues. Unfortunately, this is the most common form of Vitamin B12 on the market and is found in most Vitamin B-Complex's.
Hydroxycobalamin is a non-active form of Vitamin B12 and is used commonly as an injectable form. It has a number of benefits depending on your condition. It is recommended for those who have cyanide sensitivity. Hydroxycobalamin helps the body bind free cyanide, by reacting with the molecule to form cyanocobalamin, which can then be excreted from the body. Most people are aware that cyanide is highly toxic, but the body regularly uses it in very small quantities for metabolic processes.
Adenosylcobalamin is the other coenzyme form of Vitamin B12 and is biologically active. This form is usually sold as an injectable form and only available by prescription.
Common Reasons for Vitamin B12 Deficiency
There are a number of reasons why a person may have Vitamin B12 deficiency. Some people lack the proper intrinsic factor to properly digest this molecule. Many times this will show up at a young age but may occur as you age, however many times it is not diagnosed properly.
Vegan's also may be deficient because their diet does not allow them to eat sources of food derived from animals. Unfortunately, Vitamin B12 is only found in animal sources. Taking supplements of B12 will ensure that there are no issues.
It is also recommended that elderly people take Vitamin B12 supplements. It has been shown in studies that 15% of people over 65 have Vitamin B12 deficiency. This is partially caused by a decline in the gastric system, which results in poor absorption of nutrients. The preferred source of B12 for the elderly is sublingual or injectable forms, since they bypass the digestive systems.
Another culprits for B12 deficiency is gastric acid-blocking products and medication, which can lead to decreased vitamin B12 levels. This is also related to people with malabsorption conditions such as Celiac disease, low stomach acid or those who have had stomach or intestinal surgery. Any stomach condition may result in poor absorption of nutrients.
For a full list of conditions please see the Vitamin B12 Monograph .
Vitamin B12 is a very safe, and affordable, supplement with real benefits. For anyone that is concerned about their health, proper supplementation can play a very important role. If you have any of the symptoms or conditions associated with Vitamin B12 deficiency try taking a coenzyme form of B12, usually Methylcobalamin, and a B-Complex Vitamin with Folic Acid for a two week period. If you notice any benefits, great, and if not there was no harm done. You should always check with your doctor if your symptoms continue.
One interesting thought about Vitamin B12 is that oysters were documented as a aphrodisiac food by the Romans in the second century. Could it have been that many Romans were deficient in B12, and when they ate the oysters, which are high in B12, they were no longer deficient resulting in an increase in energy and youthfulness? It's possible.