Vitamin B12 Deficiency


What do all of these diseases have in common?

  • Alzheimer’s, dementia, cognitive decline and memory loss (collectively referred to as “ageing”), Multiple sclerosis (MS) and other neurological disorders, Mental illness (depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, psychosis), Cardiovascular disease, Learning or developmental disorders in kids, Autism spectrum disorder, Autoimmune disease and immune dysregulation, Cancer, Male and female infertility

Answer: they can all mimic the signs and symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency.

There is nothing new about B12 deficiency it is very well documented, the thing is it is far more common than most health professionals or the general public realise.

Data from the Tufts University Framingham Offspring Study suggest that 40 percent of people between the ages of 26 and 83 have plasma B12 levels in the low normal range – a range at which many experience neurological symptoms. 9 percent had outright deficiency, and 16 percent exhibited “near deficiency”. Most surprising to the researchers was the fact that low B12 levels were as common in younger people as they were in the elderly.

That said, B12 deficiency has been estimated to affect about 40% of people over 60 years of age. It’s entirely possible that at least some of the symptoms we attribute to “normal” aging – such as memory loss, cognitive decline, decreased mobility, etc. – are at least in part caused by B12 deficiency.

Why is it often not diagnosed?

There are generally two reasons that diagnosis is missed, the first is many doctors do not test for it and secondly the lower level that is tested for is to low.  Some experts have speculated that the acceptance of higher levels as normal in Japan and the willingness to treat levels considered “normal” in the UK explain the low rates of Alzheimer’s and dementia in that country.

Why do we need vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 works together with folate in the synthesis of DNA and red blood cells. It’s also involved in the production of the myelin sheath around the nerves, and the conduction of nerve impulses.  If you think of the brain as a large tangled up group of wires myelin is the insulation on the wires that helps protect and conduct messages.

Why is B12 deficiency so common?

The absorption of B12 is complex and involves several steps – each of which can go wrong. Causes of B12 malabsorption include:

Intestinal dysbiosis, leaky gut and/or gut inflammation, atrophic gastrits or hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid), pernicious anemia (autoimmune condition), medications (especially PPIs and other acid-suppressing drugs), alcohol, exposure to nitrous oxide (during surgery or recreational use)

In general, the following groups are at greatest risk for B12 deficiency:

Vegetarians and vegans, people aged 60 or over, people who regularly use PPIs or acid suppressing drugs, people on diabetes drugs like metformin, people with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac or IBS, women with a history of infertility and miscarriage.

For vegetarians and vegans

B12 is the only vitamin that contains a trace element (cobalt), which is why it’s called cobalamin. Cobalamin is produced in the gut of animals. It’s the only vitamin we can’t obtain from plants or sunlight. Plants don’t need B12 so they don’t store it.

A common myth amongst vegetarians and vegans is that it’s possible to get B12 from plant sources like seaweed, fermented soy, spirulina and brewers yeast. But plant foods said to contain B12 actually contain B12 analogs called cobamides that block intake of and increase the need for true B12.

This post only brushes the surface of the subject I will be following it up with ways to treat this.


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