Vitamin B12 and Your Body
Are you or someone you know on a vegan diet?
Do you have a child or know someone who has autism?
How about a child with behavioral issues?
Do you have loved ones or friends over the age of 60?
How about someone with pernicious anemia?
- Children with autism
- Possibly children with serious behavioral issues and learning delays
- People with pernicious anemia
- People with digestive disorders
- Those with allergies
All of those listed above may have a B12 deficiency. This blog will explain the importance of B12 for specific groups of individuals. After learning that a severe B12 deficiency could eventually lead to blindness, understanding when to get B12 levels checked is extremely important.
For many Americans, B12 deficiency is uncommon. Daily intake of animal products including meat, fish, eggs and dairy products provide plenty of B12. One thing to note is that the small intestine is where B12 is absorbed from meat. If there is any compromise in the ability for the small intestine to absorb nutrients, then B12 won't get into the bloodstream. More and more children and even adults are struggling with digestive issues and allergies. Dairy allergies may not allow them to enjoy foods with dairy leaving one of the B12 foods out of their diet. Usually those with allergies also have digestive challenges. If B12 isn't getting absorbed well, then the body isn't able to utilize it to make red blood cells needed to transport oxygen throughout the body. A lack of red blood cells can lead to anemia leaving B12 deficient individuals weak and tired.
After watching the documentary What the Health, many are choosing to eat vegan. Since vitamin B12 is not found in vegan foods, those choosing the vegan diet will need to supplement and get their B12 levels checked on a regular basis. This is very important since the healthy benefits from choosing vegan can be negated without enough B12. Homocysteine levels can rise if B12 is lacking leading to a cardiovascular nightmare if left unchecked. In addition, there have been extremely rare cases including one in the New England Journal of Medicine where a vegan became blind due to extremely low levels of B12.
Another group of people who may be at risk are those above the age of 60. As we age, our ability to absorb nutrients can diminish leading to lower levels of important vitamins and minerals. B12 is a vitamin known to be lower in older individuals. For many seniors, increasing levels of B12 may improve brain function.
Role of B12
Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is a water soluble vitamin. Vitamin B12 is responsible for DNA synthesis, brain and nervous system function, and red blood cell formation. It’s also essential for cardiovascular health since it assists in the breakdown of homocysteine, an amino acid associated with cardiovascular disease. All B vitamins are water soluble meaning they dissolve in water and can travel throughout the bloodstream. Animal products, such as fish, meat, eggs, and dairy products all contain vitamin B12. Fruit and vegetables are not good sources of B12. If someone has pernicious anemia, they can't absorb B12 leaving them with fewer red blood cells.
Autism and B12
- obsessive-compulsive behaviors
- difficulty with speech, language, writing, and comprehension
- aloofness and withdrawal
If undiagnosed, a B12 deficiency in infants and children can lead to permanent brain damage. What may seem to be a minor developmental delay such as speech, language and social delays or behavioral issues may be resolved by B12 supplementation. While many other factors may play a role in these developmental milestones, testing for B12 deficiency is critical to rule out something so simple. MRI's have shown that brain atrophy can actually reverse after B12 therapy if detected early enough.
A recent study demonstrates that autistic children and those with schizophrenia tend to have low levels of B12. Frequently children with autism have digestive challenges that may lead to malabsorption of B12.
Methylcobalamin, a form of B12, is known to help achieve better results for autism symptoms. Methylcobalamin is be considered to be the form of Vitamin B12 that parallels the form found in nature. It is pre-methylated, meaning you can experience immediate results after consumption. Cyanocobalamin is the most common form of Vitamin B12, normally found in a multivitamin supplements. The most significant benefit of the methyl form of B12 is better retention in tissues.
B12 can be given as an injection, spray, sublingually (under the tongue), chewable, capsule or liquid. There are many benefits to injection if there is a severe deficiency. Your doctor or practitioner can determine the best form for you to take.