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The Truth About Vitamin B12

by Jason Grima
The Truth About Vitamin B12

This article in a nutshell:

  • Vitamin b12 is found in meat and dairy products. It has a large array of benefits including strengthening bones, protecting against heart disease, and aids in boosting mood and energy levels.

  • A study shows that b12 can lower the body's homocysteine levels. High homocysteine levels can lead to an increased risk of clots.

  • VitaBright's Super B Vitamin Complex is a high-strength vitamin b-complex that features all 8 essential B vitamins.

We're sure you've heard about a variety of vitamins. You might wonder where to start and which fortified foods and supplements to introduce to your diet to reflect a recommended intake and stay healthy. Vitamins are absorbed and kept within the body differently. One category is the water-soluble vitamin, like B or C, which are very sought-after health supplements. This popularity is because they are not stored by the body, hence levels need to be topped up daily. On the other end, vitamins like A, D, E, & K can be stored in fat cells and then released when required.

Going back to one of the most important, the B vitamins, let's look at one of its variants: b12. Vitamin b12 is also known as the 'vegan vitamin' because it is only found in meat and dairy products. A plant-based diet can't provide the body with this supplement. To make up for it, a chemical form of the element cobalt makes up the vitamin. Cobalt bonds with vitamin b12, which is difficult to absorb into your body on its own. Because vitamin b12 is difficult to absorb, this leads to a deficiency that also may affect many older adults, pregnant mothers, and those suffering from auto-immune or digestive conditions.

Purpose of Vitamin B12

Vitamin b12 helps makes red blood cells, which in turn synthesise with other processes to improve things like nerve function and DNA production. Vitamin b12 enters the body with protein or fortified foods. An interaction with vitamin b12 and a protein in your stomach is called the intrinsic factor. After the interaction with the intrinsic factor, it gets broken into bio-active elements. Then, in the gastrointestinal tract, vitamin b12 gets absorbed and taken to the parts of your body that need it. Without vitamin b12, you can become anemic and suffer damage to your nervous system, among other health issues.

To examine vitamin b12 further, let's look at where it's found and how it helps our bodies function. It's found in animal foods, like meat, and animal products, like milk and eggs. It can also be found in fortified foods that focus on adding the vitamin for health purposes, for example, those who have a vegetarian or vegan diet. Vitamin b12 binds with proteins and then breaks apart and becomes absorbed. From there, it goes to work. Aside from cell formation, it strengthens bones to reduce the chances of osteoporosis. It addresses heart disease and the making of genetic material.

Aside from the benefits to those in the general population who do not struggle with a lack of the b vitamin, it can have further health benefits for those who do struggle. There are studies that show how vitamin b12 helps synthesise serotonin, which is vital for mood stabilising and is directly related to depression. The supplement can also boost mood and energy levels. You'll increase your red blood cells and the cycle in your cells that create energy. Vitamin b12 also boosts hair, skin, and nails to be strong and healthy.

Risks of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

If you keep a plant-based diet, including a vegan diet, you don't have natural access to this essential supplement. You might be at high risk of a vitamin b12 deficiency. As briefly mentioned above, this can cause other problems that stem from anemia, like numbness, lowered pain tolerance, blurry vision, and poor memory. It can also lead to an increased risk for heart disease. Let's look at these problems in greater detail.

Red blood cells carry oxygen to different parts of the body using hemoglobin. When experiencing a vitamin b12 deficiency, your body will produce malfunctioning red blood cells that are too big to work properly. The lack of oxygen to different parts of your body can exhibit in different ways, like numbness and blurry vision.

In the case of heart disease, your body can gather levels of an amino acid called homocysteine that increases blood clots. Vitamin b12 and folic acid have been proven to lower homocysteine levels to then lower the chances of cardiovascular disease. Homocysteine levels have also been linked to macular degeneration due to aging.

A lack of vitamin b12 might cause nerve cells to become damaged. This can exhibit in a lack of concentration or hallucinations. These health issues sound serious, and they are, but the good news is that supplementing with vitamin b12 improves these conditions. Make sure you talk to a health professional as soon you notice symptoms or become concerned.

Who's At Risk?

Pernicious anemia is an autoimmune disorder that affects the stomach. As mentioned, there's a reaction that happens in there called the intrinsic factor. If the stomach is negatively affected, it would directly affect this factor and thus inhibit the absorption of vitamin b12. Working with a doctor to address the autoimmune disease will start the reversal of the vitamin deficiency, which will often include taking a supplement.

Celiac disease, Crohn's disease, and other issues affecting the digestive system hold your body back from fully absorbing vitamin b12. Even if the intrinsic factor is made in the stomach, b12 is absorbed in the small intestines. It doesn't get absorbed correctly with these digestive issues because the diseases deteriorate the intestinal lining.

Pregnant and nursing mothers need vitamin b12, too. During pregnancy, it's important to get an adequate intake of many supplements to ensure the health of the mother and the health of the baby. A vitamin b12 deficiency can cause birth defects including neural tube defects in newborn babies because it's vital for the formation of the brain and nervous system. Some neural tube defects include spina bifida, anencephaly, and encephalocele. Vitamin b12 is often used in conjunction with folic acid in pregnancy to avoid anemia.

Infants need vitamin b12, too, which they originally get from their mothers during pregnancy, but they can also get it from breastmilk. If the mother is breastfeeding and receiving enough vitamin b12 in her diet, the benefits can pass into the milk for the baby. Vitamin b12 helps brain development in babies and produces red blood cells. For mothers and babies who are not breastfeeding, infant formula is one of many fortified foods that provide vitamin b12.

Vegan and vegetarian diets don't provide vitamin b12, as mentioned previously because they obviously avoid meat. Ensuring that you take a regular supplement will reduce the risk of a deficiency if you follow a vegan diet. Look out for the ingredients in your vitamin, as there are vegan options that come from algae. Watching out for vegan health includes sticking to the diet, so your vitamins should follow the same qualifications.

The Three Faces of Vitamin B12

Not all vitamin b12 supplements are created equally. Different forms offer various health benefits and some are more beneficial than others. Go over your diet and your lifestyle and think about what your goals are. As you consider the risks of vitamin b12 deficiency, look at the choices below for optimal health.

Cyanocobalamin:

This supplement is a man-made form, and it's one of the most common types of vitamin b12 supplements. Part of this is because it's the most air-stable version, making it easier to crystallise to make pills accessible to the general population. Taking it can reduce low blood levels of vitamin b12 and these levels can be monitored by a blood test. It's more difficult to absorb quickly, and your body needs to convert this base material into methylcobalamin for use in the brain, and adenosylcobalamin to be used in energy metabolism. The absorption happens in the small intestines when binding with the intrinsic factor from the stomach.

Cyanocobalamin isn't naturally bio-active, but when taken through supplements or fortified foods, it can be transformed into a bio-active format. When looking at taking this form of vitamin b12, there are different delivery techniques: intramuscular or injection, nasal, or a pill. As mentioned, it could be present in some food. Some examples of fortified foods include formula and cereal for infants, breakfast cereals and energy drinks for adults, and even several types of foods for animals.

Methylcobalamin:

A 'body-ready' or 'bio-active' form of vitamin b12, is a cofactor that works best when ingested with other forms of the vitamin, especially adenosylcobalamin, which form is covered below. Methylcobalamin is instantly absorbed and utilised in the brain to rejuvenate damaged neurons by creating myelin. Myelin shields nerve fibers, which is significant because methylcobalamin has been used to treat Alzheimer's disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Those who suffer from these ailments need extra protection and regeneration of injured nerves.

This is what the vast majority of health supplements are made from. Methylcobalamin is related to supporting the metabolism of folate, which is vital for red cell production and proper cell growth. This is especially necessary for pregnant women to decrease the risk of birth defects for the fetus, as discussed above. Along with this, low folate metabolic levels can lead to elevated homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is an amino acid that needs to be converted to cysteine with the help of vitamin b12.

Adenosylcobalamin:

This is another 'body-ready' or 'bio-active' form of vitamin b12 and is also known as a cofactor or a coenzyme. This means it often works with other forms, including methylcobalamin. This version is immediately used in your metabolic systems to work with the MCM (Methymalonyl Coenzyme A Mutase) enzyme in mitochondria to make energy for the Krebs cycle. This cycle, also called the citric acid cycle, gives our cells energy and is a part of aerobic respiration, which uses oxygen to create sugar to give our bodies energy.

This is the main form of vitamin b12 found in humans. It also happens to be the forgotten half of vitamin b12, and very few supplements contain it. There are some studies that suggest that people with chronic fatigue experience greater relief with adenosylcobalamin. Aside from treating common versions of vitamin b12 deficiency, it's also used to address cyanide poisoning. The treatment works because this form of vitamin b12 bonds with the cyanide to make cyanocobalamin, the first form of the vitamin listed above.

Conclusion: A Dirty Little Secret?

Why do the vast majority of big supplement brands, with all their promises of investment in expert research and development, think it's acceptable to only deliver you half of this crucial vitamin whilst failing to mention that your metabolic system and energy levels will be completely unaffected? We don't know. Considering the serious health problems that are linked to a vitamin b12 deficiency, we think it's vital to research the supplements you take and ensure that you're receiving the most effective vitamins possible.

For example, a cyanocobalamin supplement might be suitable for keeping your dietary levels topped up with vitamin b12, but it's not bioavailable enough to address a serious deficiency or absorption problem. It is unlikely to provide enough for anyone on a vegan diet, or even close to it. Plant foods don't provide vitamin b12, and if these dietary supplements are the only source to fight off a deficiency, then wouldn't it make sense to be sure you have the best?

It's clear that, if you want the full benefits of a high-strength b12 supplement, it needs to deliver both body-ready forms of vitamin b12. The good news is that here at VitaBright, we've done our research. Hence the release of our latest vitamin supplement: Dual-active Vitamin b12 - 50/50 adenosylcobalamin and methylcobalamin. As we learned above, adenosylcobalamin and methylcobalamin often work together to increase adequate intake.

Better yet, we have some other supplements to consider. For example, you can get dual-active b12 alongside all your essential B vitamins, vitamin C, and several other health-boosting nutrients with VitaBrights Super B-complex. The combination will strengthen your immune system and address adequate amounts of other nutrients to create healthy people.

It's about time somebody did things properly. VitaBright, for a brighter life.

by Jason Grima