Vitamin B12, is a water-soluble vitamin that is involved in the metabolism of every cell of the body: it is a co-factor in DNA synthesis, and in both amino acid and fatty acid metabolism. It is important in the normal functioning of your nervous system and in the maturation of developing red blood cells in our bone marrow. There is no other vitamin which has such a strong influence on your well-being and physical performance as vitamin B 12.
Vitamin B12 is one of eight B vitamins; it is the largest and most structurally complex vitamin. It contains the biochemically rare element cobalt. The only organisms to produce their own vitamin B12 are certain bacteria, and other single cell organisms. Some of these bacteria are found in the soil around the grasses that animals (most commonly cows) eat; they are then taken into our bodies as we consume them either through dairy or meat. It is made by bacteria in the guts of animals and migrates from gut to muscle which we then consume.
To avoid vitamin B12 deficiency the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin B-12 depends on a person’s age. The most widely used allowance requirements are:
Infants between 7 and 12 months old require 0.5 mcg of B-12 per day, and babies less than 6 months old only need 0.4 mcg per day.
Pregnant women require 2.6 mcg, while breast-feeding women need 2.8 mcg per day.
***However*** If you watch this video you will see that those numbers may be based on outdated information***
In the United States between 1.5 and 15 percent of the population are currently diagnosed with vitamin B12 deficiency.
Vitamin B-12 is a water-soluble vitamin. This means it can dissolve in water and travel easily through your bloodstream. Any excess or unwanted vitamin B-12 is excreted in the urine.
If you are at all concerned about your B12 levels, I recommend that your first step should involve seeing your doctor for a simple blood test.
Because there are very few common vegetable sources of the vitamin, vegans and those living a plant based lifestyle must use a supplement or eat fortified foods for B12 intake or risk serious health consequences. Most omnivorous people obtain enough vitamin B12 from consuming animal products, including meat, eggs, milk, and fish. Everyday staple foods, especially those that form part of a vegan diet, are often fortified by having the vitamin added to them. Vitamin B12 supplements are available in single agent or multivitamin tablets; and in extreme cases by intramuscular injection.
Vitamin B12 deficiency occurs when a a shortage of vitamin B12 in the blood causes the body to produce unusually large red blood cells that can’t function properly.
Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout our bodies using a substance called hemoglobin. The human body produces millions of red blood cells every minute. These red blood cells cannot multiply properly without vitamin B-12. Red blood cell production is reduced if vitamin B-12 levels are too low.
This is where Anemia comes from. Anemia means having either fewer red blood cells than normal or having an abnormally low amount of hemoglobin in each red blood cell.
There are several types of anemia, and each one has a different cause. For example, iron deficiency anemia, occurs when the body doesn’t contain enough iron.
A water-soluble Vitamin B12 is crucial to our brain and nervous systems, red blood cell formation and our DNA. Our Central Nervous Systems are especially vulnerable to vitamin B12 deficiency.
If you just switched to a 100% vegan based diet, you can relax for now. Your liver can store enough vitamin B12 to last one to five years. After that, however your health could suffer serious and irreversible damage if you have vitamin B12 deficiency.
In 2013, researchers described the case of a 25-year-old man with low Vitamin B12 and myelopathy. Myelopathy is degeneration of the spinal cord, and is the a common neurological syndrome of vitamin B12 deficiency and is a sign of early stage four vitamin b12 deficiency. If detected in time, the condition is fully reversible they discovered. The subject of the study sought medical help for a tingling sensation in both hands that was spreading. He was known as a strict vegetarian, he was treated immediately with B12 injections, which led to a cure for his symptoms.
You will only become aware of any physical symptoms when you hit stage 4.
This is when “serum depletion” becomes evident. It is possible to detect low levels of the B12 carrier protein TCII. TCII levels drop within just a few days of absence of the vitamin. This is only discovered through a blood test as no physical symptoms are present.
As stage one progresses to stage 2, low vitamin B12 can be detected at a cellular level. Like stage 1, there are no discernible symptoms and are only discovered through having bloodwork done.
In Stage 3, there is another detectable change in your blood. Amino Acid Levels begin to rise above normal, creating a condition sometimes called ‘hyperhomocysteinuria’. As B12 levels rise, homocysteine Amino Acid levels fall, and vice versa. Elevated homocysteine in the blood is an indication of B12 deficiency.
This is where physical symptoms start to appear. Some of these are more serious than others, and some are more obvious than others.
Early, mild symptoms of stage 4 vitamin B12 deficiency include:
Memory loss and slower mental processes are the most reported cognitive problems associated with Vitamin B12 deficiency. In older people, cognitive function may decline, and dementia arise. Senior citizens whether omnivore or vegetarian are vulnerable to B12 deficiency, a factor that can be easily overlooked when symptoms of dementia arise. It is estimated that 10%–15% of people over the age of 60 have vitamin B12 deficiency. If alzheimers or dementia runs in your family it may be wise to take a Vitamin B12 supplement no matter if you are a vegan or not.
Both your blood and the central nervous system are the most probable to be affected at this stage. Megaloblastic anaemia is not uncommon in Stage 4. This is a condition in which abnormal red blood cells are produced by bone marrow. The first neurological symptoms may be tingling or numbness in your hands or feet. Other symptoms develop over time including balance or walking problems, vision loss due to degeneration of the optic nerve and dementia or memory loss.
Another indication of stage 4 Vitamin b12 deficiency is depression.
One study compared vitamin B12 levels in 100 vegetarians with 100 omnivores. Vitamin B12 was significantly higher in the omnivore group and lower in the vegetarian group, and the frequency of depression was 12% in the omnivore group compared to 31% in the vegan group. Psychosis was found in 3% of the omnivore group campared to 11% of the vegetarians.
Despite the physical and mental problems of untreated vitamin B12 deficiency, it is possible to continue on a vegan-based lifestyle diet. This means being knowlegedable of alternative sources of Vitamin B12, and making sure you have enough of those sources.
For people leading a vegan lifestyle and not eating any animal products, yeast extract (like Vegemite/Marmite) and other fortified/supplemented foods such as breakfast cereals, soya milks, soya/veggie burgers, shitake mushrooms and vegetable margarines are all good sources.
While algae, seaweed, and certain mushrooms all contain vitamin B-12, they are not very reliable sources because they do not act the same way in the human body. Studies have found that consuming these foods does not significantly impact a person’s vitamin B-12 levels and can still lead to Vitamin B12 deficiency.
Besides Vegans people who have celiac disease, gastritus and ulcerative colitis disease and chronic alcoolics may lead to a Vitamin B12 deficiency because these conditions cause the absorption of many nutrients to be reduced.
Individuals treating their diabetes with metformin are advised to monitor their levels of vitamin B-12. Metformin might reduce the absorption of vitamin B-12. This is a standard test done by endochronologists.
Older people are also at high risk for developing Vitamin B12 deficiency. Up to 30% of people age 50 and over suffer from atrophic gastritis, a thinning of the stomach lining. Gastritus reduces the amount of B12 absorbed by the small intestine.
HoloTC test is a early and reliable marker of vitamin B12 deficiency. In contrast to the serum test, it only measures the vitamin B12 form, which can actually be utilized by the body.
Is a very simple, yet meaningful variant is the MMA urine test. In this method, the methylmalonic acid is measured – an increased MMA value indicates a vitamin B12 deficiency. Just as with the Holo TC test, only the actual active vitamin B12 is measured in this variant.
If you eat a healthy and balanced diet, there is no need to take extra vitamin B12 supplements unless you are in one of the at risk groups. However, if you do not get enough vitamin B12 from your diet, you should take alternative vitamin B12 sources. Supplementation of Vitamin B12 of 25-100 mcg per day has been used to maintain vitamin B12 levels in older people.
For vitamin B12 deficiency in other people such as those following a vegan lifestyle: Vitamin B12 doses of 300-10,000 mcg daily have been used. Some evidence suggests the most effective oral dose is between 647-1032 mcg daily.
Here are 3 recomended Vitamin B12 supplements:
Vitafusion B12: 1000 mcg
DESCRIPTION: Vitamin B12 deficiency is common among those eating vegetarian and particularly vegan diets because of failure to take B12 supplements or eat B12-fortifed foods. Have a question about this video? Leave it in the comment section at http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/vegan-epidemic/ and I’ll try to answer it! Check out my blog post Vegan B12 Deficiency: Putting It into Perspective (http://nutritionfacts.org/blog/2011/08/25/vegan-b12-deficiency-putting-it-into-perspective/) to put this subject into context.