Vitamin B12 Deficiency: A Growing Epidemic
According to a report in the Harvard Health Newsletter, B12 deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the developing world and the U.S. This is bad news since B12 is one of the building blocks your body uses to produce DNA. It also keeps your immune system functioning optimally, regulates mood and sleep cycles, and is crucial to energy production, which is why it’s known as the “energy vitamin.”
Signs and symptoms of a B12 deficiency include the following:
- Low energy and weakness
- Confusion or “fuzziness”
- Persistent sleep problems
- Digestive problems
- Hearing and vision loss
- Memory problems
- Irritability and mood swings
- Dizziness or light headedness
- Weak immune function
- Numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
I recommend vitamin B12 supplementation to my patients, and I am going to recommend it to you as well. Simply put, taking a high quality B12 supplement can increase your energy and improve your overall state of well-being — and help preserve your brain function as you age.
Vitamin B12 Keeps Your Brain from Shrinking
The cognitive decline associated with aging has been clearly linked to a process in the body that involves a decrease in brain mass. That’s right, your brain actually shrinks as you get older! This reduction in brain mass is directly correlated with Alzheimer’s risk and the associated loss of memory and cognitive function seen in older individuals.
A landmark study conducted in 2010 showed that supplementation with B12 in combination with B6 and folic acid slowed the accelerated rate of brain shrinkage and declining cognitive scores in older individuals with mild cognitive impairment. While B6 and folic acid are readily available in the diet and easily absorbed, B12 is not, and severe B12 deficiency is thought to affect nearly 1 in 2 older adults,[8,9] making proper supplementation critical.
A more recent 2011 study published in the journal Neurology confirmed the importance of B12 in brain health among older individuals. It again showed that older individuals with higher levels of B12 in their blood had less shrinkage of the brain than counterparts with lower levels. Those with higher B12 blood levels and increased brain size also scored higher on memory and cognitive tests.
B12 protects your brain and nervous system by keeping nerves healthy and communicating in an optimal manner.[11,12] In addition, one of its most powerful protective properties for the brain is its ability to reduce blood levels of a dangerous metabolite called homocysteine. Homocysteine is a protein naturally formed in the body as a result of metabolism that is commonly correlated with many adverse health affects. Reductions in circulating homocysteine levels as a result of increased blood levels of B12 have been found to reduce the risk of developing serious cognitive decline. Being deficient in B12 puts your brain at serious risk by contributing to age-related brain shrinkage and elevated levels of homocysteine.
Why You Should Start Taking a B12 Supplement Now
Many factors are contributing to the massive widespread rise in B12 deficiency. The most important is related to the fact that the body’s ability to absorb B12 decreases as we age. It has been clearly established that most people are deficient in B12 not because of a lack of consumption, but because they lack the ability to properly absorb it into the bloodstream.
Unlike almost all other vitamins, B12 must be separated from food by stomach acid in order to be absorbed. In addition, the body has to release a special binding protein called intrinsic factor to facilitate the passage of B12 into the blood stream. As we age, the cells in our stomach that make the stomach acid needed to cleave B12 from food and the intrinsic factor needed to absorb it significantly reduce in activity and potency. This leaves us with a severely compromised mechanism to extract and absorb B12 from our food. Therefore, a sublingual (under-the-tongue) B12 supplement like Tree for life's that bypasses the digestive process becomes necessary in order to raise B12 blood levels.
Another major factor that contributes to B12 deficiency is prescription medication. Acid-blocking medications and the diabetes drug, metformin, both deplete the body of B12. By the way, B12 supplements are extremely safe. B12 has no know drug interactions and has never shown any adverse or toxic effects in humans, even when given in large doses.
Take the Right B12 or Don’t Bother!
There are 2 main factors to consider when choosing a B12 supplement:
1. Sublingual Delivery: All oral B12 supplements should be delivered to the body by dissolving them under the tongue. The vast network of blood vessels under the tongue allows B12 to be absorbed directly into the blood stream and thus bypassing the issues related to stomach acid and intrinsic factor.
2. Activated Form: Most B12 supplements on store shelves and on the Internet are made with an inexpensive form of B12 called cyanocobalamin. The problem with this form of B12 is that your body cannot even utilize it! In order to have a beneficial effect on the health of your cells, it must first be converted into its active counterpart called methylcobalamin.
For these reasons, I ALWAYS suggest that anyone interested in supplementing with B12 use a supplement that contains 100% methylcobalamin delivered in a sublingual form.
Tree for Life's Vitamin B12 fits the bill and all the above recommendations and requirements.