Vitamin B-12 is possibly the most well-known of the B family of vitamins. Even orthodox medical practitioners recognize its importance in treating pernicious anemia, for example. It is legendary for its ability to "raise energy" although that perception is probably somewhat flawed since it is really the other B vitamins together which truly support energy production in the body. This member of the B family has many important functions in the body which we will look at in this newsletter.
The nervous system is profoundly linked to this vitamin. Conditions ranging from Alzheimer's disease to depression to insomnia and obsessive-compulsive disorder may result from deficiencies in this crucial nutrient. Vitamin B-12 protects and regenerates the fatty myelin sheath surrounding neurons and helps produce neurotransmitters. B-12 helps to normalize circadian rhythm by its involvement in the endogenous production of melatonin. Sleep is improved by B-12 increasing melatonin levels early in the night and reducing them at the end of a night's sleep. Mood and thus depression are linked to this vitamin. Supplementation with B-12 may alleviate major depression (especially in elderly people), and also mild dementia in the elderly may be reversed with B-12. Anxiety and confusion may result from deficiency and thus may be improved with supplementation.
Excess homocysteine, a toxic amino acid metabolite formed in the body, is a risk factor for many cardiovascular diseases. These include atherosclerosis, congestive heart failure, and stroke. Homocysteine creates rampant inflammation, especially to the endothelium (inner arterial lining). Increases in atherosclerotic plaque greatly increase heart attack risk. Many factors contribute to elevated homocysteine levels, including excess consumption of high-methionine foods, especially red meat and dairy; age; obesity; smoking; and alcohol and coffee consumption. It is a function of several of the B vitamins to reduce levels of high homocysteine. B-12 is primarily involved, along with vitamin B-6 and folic acid (folate). These nutrients work together to maintain homocysteine levels in a favorable range.
Forms of Vitamin B-12
B vitamins are converted by the liver into body-ready forms. These are known as co-enzymated or methylated forms. In recent years these body-ready forms have become available as supplements, greatly improving absorption and efficacy of the vitamins. The body-ready form of B-12 is methylcobalamin. Not only is this the form the body uses in its processes, and therefore superior, it is also part of the methylation pathway, which is a detoxification system in the body involved with reducing toxic homocysteine. Methylcobalamin supplements are plentiful nowadays, surpassing the old cyanocobalamin form used for years, and generally are sublingual for best absorption. Some companies also make food-grown methylcobalamin which does not need to be sublingual.
Anemia & More
The formation of red blood cells is dependent upon B-12. Red blood cells transport oxygen to body tissues. Anemia, the condition where there are not enough red blood cells, therefore critically requires adequate levels of this nutrient to be rectified. It was thought for many years that only injectable B-12 would be effective in alleviating anemia. This has been shown to be incorrect; oral B-12 therapy (especially as methylcobalamin) is effective as well. Nature's Plus Hema-Plex is a combination of iron and co-factors that nourish red blood cells.
Vitamin B-12 is also involved with optimizing ratios of various types of white blood cells, thereby assisting the immune system. B-12 has been clinically studied for decades, and some conditions shown to have benefited from supplementation are lupus, viral hepatitis, tinnitus, and multiple sclerosis. Vitamin B-12 is found in animals and does not generally occur in plants. There are B-12-like compounds in some algae and microalgae but it is not certain whether these vegetable sources truly are absorbed and act as animal-derived B-12. It is for this reason that vegans and strict vegetarians should be concerned with supplementation. Other people at risk for deficiency are the elderly, since absorption of B-12 decreases with age. Deficiency symptoms are generally nervous system-related, such as neuralgia (numbness and tingling), confusion, insomnia, and fatigue. Pale skin and fingernails may reflect anemia due to a deficiency. It may take years for deficiency symptoms to manifest, however.
Availability & Selection
This vitamin is a part of specific formulas for homocysteine control, found in our Heart Health section. Evergreen has more than two entire shelves of various single B-12 products, including flavored sublingual lozenges, and it is available in cyanocobalamin and methylcobalamin forms. Dosages range from 500 mcg up to 5000 mcg. Naturally it will be part of B-complexes, of which there are regular forms as well as co-enzymated forms.
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