The Health Benefits of Vitamin B12

Life Enhancement with Dr. Michael Lang, ND, ABHRT

Supplementation with Vitamin B12 is important for vegans and older adults

            Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is an essential vitamin that your body needs but cannot produce. It’s found naturally in animal products, but also added to certain foods and available as an oral supplement. Vitamin B-12 injections, nasal spray, or oral supplements might be prescribed to treat vitamin B-12 deficiency.

            Food sources of vitamin B-12 include poultry, meat, fish and dairy products. Because your body is capable of storing several years’ worth of vitamin B-12, deficiency is rare. However, if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, you might be prone to deficiency, because plant foods don’t contain vitamin B-12. Older adults and people with digestive tract conditions that affect absorption of nutrients also are susceptible to vitamin B-12 deficiency.

            Vitamin B12 has many roles in your body. It supports the normal function of your nerve cells, and it is needed for red blood cell formation and DNA synthesis. For most adults, the recommended daily intake (RDI) is 2.4 mcg, though it’s higher for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding Vitamin B12 may benefit your body in impressive ways, such as by boosting your energy, improving your memory, and helping prevent heart disease.

 Those at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency may include:

            •  Older adults. In many older adults, the secretion of hydrochloric acid in the stomach is reduced, causing a reduction in the absorption of vitamin B12.

            •  People with gastrointestinal disorders, such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease.

            •  Those who have had gastrointestinal surgeries, such as bariatric surgery or bowel-resection surgery.

            •  People on a strict vegan diet.

            •  IMPORTANT! Certain common drugs like Metformin (120 million people take this!) and proton pump inhibitors (stomach acid reducing drugs), commonly taken for 25 years with multiple, unwanted effects, will dramatically lower B12 levels. In some cases Metformin may cause irreversible nerve damage!

The health benefits of B12 may include:

            1) Vitamin B12 is involved in red blood cell formation. When vitamin B12 levels are too low, the production of red blood cells is altered, causing megaloblastic anemia.

            2) Adequate vitamin B12 levels are crucial to a healthy pregnancy. Studies show that a fetus’s brain and nervous system require sufficient B12 levels from the mother to develop properly. Appropriate vitamin B12 levels are key to a healthy pregnancy. They’re important for the prevention of brain and spinal cord birth defects.

            3) Vitamin B12 may play a vital role in your bone health. Low blood levels of this vitamin have been associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis.

            4) B12 may reduce your risk of Macular Degeneration, which is an eye disease that mainly affects your central vision. Maintaining adequate levels of vitamin B12 decreases homo-cysteine levels in your blood. This may help prevent the development of age-related macular degeneration.

            5) Vitamin B12 may improve your mood and symptoms of depression. The effect of vitamin B12 on mood is not yet fully understood. However, this vitamin plays a vital role in synthesizing and metabolizing serotonin, a chemical responsible for regulating mood. Another study discovered that vitamin B12 deficiency was associated with twice the risk of severe depression.

            6) B12 may benefit your brain by preventing the loss of neurons. Vitamin B12 deficiency has been associated with memory loss, especially in older adults. B12 may play a role in preventing brain atrophy, which is the loss of neurons in the brain and often associated with memory loss or dementia.

            7) One of the most common early signs of vitamin B12 deficiency is fatigue or lack of energy. Vitamin B12 is involved in energy production in your body. Taking a supplement may improve your energy level, but only if you’re deficient in this vitamin.

            8) Studies have shown that vitamin B12 helps decrease homocysteine levels, which may reduce your risk of heart disease. Given vitamin B12’s role in cell production, adequate levels of this vitamin are needed to promote healthy hair, skin and nails.

            9) Low vitamin B12 levels can cause various dermatologic symptoms, including hyperpigmentation, nail discoloration, hair changes, vitiligo (the loss of skin color in patches) and angular stomatitis (inflamed and cracked mouth corners). Supplementing with vitamin B12 has been shown to improve dermatologic symptoms in people with B12 deficiency. However, if you’re well nourished and not deficient in this vitamin, taking a supplement is unlikely to improve your skin, nail strength, or hair health.

            The bottom line is that you must obtain water-soluble vitamin B12 through diet or supplements. It’s responsible for many bodily functions and will benefit your health in many ways. You may order high-quality B12 directly through my website, TheVitalLife.net. Press the order online button for Wellevate.

            For all your wellness needs, call Dr. Lang for an appointment at (406) 586-1100. To learn more about his services, visit TheVitalLife.net. His office is at 19 N. 10th Ave., Suite 2, in Bozeman.

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