Vitamin B12 Benefits - Heart, Mind and Nerve Health

Vitamin B12 benefits can help you to keep your vascular system, your brain and your nervous system in good health - let's find out why...


Vitamin B12 is a BIG vitamin. As a matter of fact, it is bigger and more complex than all the other vitamins. Vitamin B12 is the last "B" vitamin that has been discovered by us humans (guess which one was the 1st).

Vitamin B12 benefits are required for healthy red blood cells. Vitamin B12 is also required for the repair of your tissues and cells and also for DNA synthesis and proper functioning of your neurological system.

 

 

Your body has the ability to store 3 - 5 years of Vitamin B12 in your liver. That is why a Vitamin B12 deficiency may take a couple of years to show up.

A deficiency of Vitamin B12 benefits can result in what's called macrocytic anemia. This is where your red blood cells are larger than normal but fewer than normal. This can cause us shortness of breath and make us get tired more easily.

A Vitamin B12 deficiency can also cause us problems with our nervous system and can even result in nerve damage. This can cause us problems such as numbness and tingling in our extremities. Also, a lack of Vitamin B12 benefits can cause us mental problems in our later years such as dementia and depression.

Vitamin B12 along with Folic Acid ( Vitamin B9 ), has been shown to significantly reduce the incidence of a certain class of birth defects called neural tube defects. It is thought that the homocysteine lowering action of both of these vitamins is the mechanism responsible for this (our page on Folic Acid goes into detail on how elevated homocysteine levels play a role in birth defects as well as cardiovascular disease).

Should I Worry About Not Getting My Vitamin B12 Benefits ?

Although we talked about the deficiencies of Vitamin B12 above, most of us need not worry about deficiencies until we reach about 50 years of age or so. The reason for this is that most of us get enough benefits of Vitamin B12 in our diets - according to the RDA that is.

The RDA required to get your Vitamin B12 benefits is 2.4 mcg (micrograms). Vitamin B12 is found in fish, meat and poultry but not in fruits and vegetables. A three ounce serving of beef for instance will give you about 2 mcg of Vitamin B12. Eight ounces of milk will give you about 1 mcg. And a three ounce serving of salmon will give you about 2.5 mcg. Three ounces of chicken or turkey will give you a bit less than 0.5 mcg

Of course if you are a vegetarian you will want to consider supplements.

Also as we get older, it is estimated that at least 30% of us will be unable to absorb the Vitamin B12 benefits found in foods. This is because our stomach's production of acid tends to decrease. It is this stomach acid that is necessary to break Vitamin B12 away from the proteins in food. This process must happen first before Vitamin B12 can bind with what is called intrinsic factor in our small intestines before then being absorbed.

This is why it is advisable for folks over 50 to get their vitamin B12 benefits from either Vitamin B12 fortified foods or from supplements. Vitamin B12 in these forms is not bound to proteins and are therefore ready to bind with intrinsic factor and be absorbed by your body.

 

Vitamin B12 Benefits and Vascular Disease

As we discussed on our Folic Acid page, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9) along with Vitamin B12 have been proven very effective in lowering blood homocysteine levels. We covered homocysteine in detail on our Folic Acid page, but to briefly recap ...

Homocysteine is a bad guy. It has been implicated in diseases such as vascular disease, neural tube defects and in our later years, dementia and even Alzheimer's Disease. Homocysteine is an amino acid produced by our bodies as a result of our eating meat.

Normally, homocysteine is converted by your body to methionine which is required by your body for the building of proteins and other vital chemical processes. However your body needs folic acid along with the benefits of vitamin b12 to do this.

Without optimal levels of both of these vitamins, homocysteine levels build up and can cause you problems. The British Medical Journal as well as the American Heart Association have both reported on studies linking optimal levels of Folic Acid and Vitamin B12 to significantly reduced homocysteine levels.

An article appearing in THE LANCET entitled "Importance of both folic acid and vitamin B12 in reduction of risk of vascular disease" tells us "This finding suggests that a fortification policy based on folic acid and vitamin B12, rather than folic acid alone, is likely to be much more effective at lowering of homocysteine concentrations, with potential benefits for reduction of risk of vascular disease".

And also, THE AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION in "Homocysteine, Diet, and Cardiovascular Diseases" says that "Users of multivitamin supplements in observational studies have lower homocysteine levels than nonusers, as well as higher concentrations of plasma folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12". In addition "Users of multivitamins have been reported to have a reduced prevalence of CAD (coronary artery disease) compared with nonusers".

Vitamin B12 Benefits - Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease

One of the mechanisms thought to play a part in the development of Dementia and Alzheimer's in our later years is oxidative stress. We talk in length about oxidative stress at our Vitamin E and Vitamin C pages. These two vitamins are what we call antioxidants.

Another of the mechanisms that has received a lot of attention as of late is - you guessed it - high levels of homocysteine. Studies appearing in the AMERICAN JOURNAL OF CLINICAL NUTRITION, ARCHIVES OF NEUROLOGY and the NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE all point to the link between elevated levels of homocysteine and increased incidence of dementia and Alzheimer's Disease as we get older.

These studies indicate that vascular disease plays a prominent role in causing Alzheimer's Disease. And since a high homocysteine level is an independent risk factor in vascular disease, this also contributes to Alzheimer's.

The ARCHIVES OF NEUROLOGY suggests that folic Acid and Vitamin B12 benefits you by lowering the homocysteine levels that are associated with Alzheimer's. In an article titled "Folate, vitamin B12, and serum total homocysteine levels in confirmed Alzheimer disease" they say "Low blood levels of folate and vitamin B12, and elevated tHcy levels were associated with AD"


Other Vitamin B12 Benefits

Vitamin B12 benefits you in other ways as well. Vitamin B12 deficiencies have been shown to affect our mood, our energy levels and can even result in severe depression as we get a little older. This is because as you remember, Vitamin B12 plays a key role in the health of our neurological system.

What Do We Recommend?

Most research on vitamin B12 benefits seems to point to getting a healthy dose of Vitamin B12 in your multivitamin. This insures that Vitamin B12 and the other nutrients you are getting are working together synergistically.

None other than Harvard School of Public Health weighed in by stating that the, "... intake of several vitamins above the minimum daily requirement may prevent heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, and other chronic diseases."

Also, an article appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) had this to say: "…suboptimal intake of some vitamins, above levels causing classic vitamin deficiency, is a risk factor for chronic diseases and common in the general population..."

In addition, the JAMA went on to say, "Most people do not consume an optimal amount of all vitamins by diet alone. Pending strong evidence of effectiveness from randomized trials, it appears prudent for all adults to take vitamin supplements."

We've seen lots of products out there and we recommend not wasting your time or money on the mass produced, mass marketed thrift store variety multivitamins.

Most of these skimp on the amount of nutrients in their formulations and some are are just downright low quality.

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