Hydroxocobalamin, adenosylcobalamin, cyanocobalamin or methylcobalamin. Sounds serious, right? Well, good health is serious. Those long medical words are the names of various forms of Vitamin B12. As you know, there are a number of other B vitamins as well. You probably see many food labels and vitamin supplements that refer to the energy-boosting and stress-healing powers of the whole class of B vitamins. And it is a wonderful group of vitamins! But today I would like to focus on the one which I am asked about the most….and the one most commonly discovered to be low on testing…Vitamin B12.
The Four Types of Vitamin B12
It is so important for everyone to understand the importance of getting enough B12 in the diet. In my practice, each patient is screened for B12 deficiency as part of their initial evaluation. About 35% have low, or borderline low, levels. Knowing the four types of B12 will help you chose the right one for you:
This is the most active form in the human body. It converts homocysteine into methionine, which helps protect the cardiovascular system. This form of B12 also offers overall protection to the nervous system. Methylcobalamin also crosses the blood-brain barrier to protect brain cells. It also contributes essential methyl groups needed for detoxification and to initiate the body’s biochemical reactions.
This synthetic version of B12 is created in a lab. This makes it the least expensive choice. While it is the most stable form of B12, it does so through the presence of a cyanide molecule. The amount of cyanide is not considered dangerous, but it does require the liver to convert and remove it. In past years, this was the “go to” form of B12, but this form has been rapidly declining in popularity in recent years.
Although naturally occurring, this form of B12 is the least stable of the four types of B12 outside the human body. It is difficult to make into a tablet-based supplement, so it can be difficult to find in a supplement form.
This form is created naturally by bacteria, making it the main type found in most foods. It is easily converted to methylcobalamin in the body. This form is commonly used by injection as a treatment for B12 deficiency.
Symptoms of B12 Deficiency
Early symptoms of B12 deficiency include fatigue, brain fog, digestive symptoms, loss of menstruation and nausea. Left untreated, symptoms advance and often include nerve pain in legs and arms, dementia, depression, anxiety, infertility, anemia, and impaired immune function.
Vitamin B12 is Uniquely Absorbed
Many studies estimate that at least 40% of Americans have trouble absorbing B12. While the human body is able to absorb most vitamins efficiently, B12 absorption is heavily reliant on digestive health.
Our stomach normally produces intrinsic factor (IF), a protein needed to help with B12 absorption. Not having enough intrinsic factor is the #1 reason for not absorbing enough B12.
There are a number of reasons a person might not produce enough intrinsic factor: GI surgery, gastritis, leaky gut syndrome, gluten sensitivity, low stomach acid, exposure to mercury, and consuming food preservative like MSG. Some of these underlying causes can be treated while others cannot. Sometimes, the body simply does not produce enough. Production of intrinsic factor also declines as we get older. Whatever the cause, without intrinsic factor, it is hard for your body to absorb the B12 it needs and B12 deficiency becomes a real risk.
Because of this potential for B12 absorption problems, it is wise to choose the most absorbable form of B12—methylcobalamin. Those who are poor B12 absorbers do well with this form. If only a small part of what is taken is absorbed, it is often enough to raise B12 levels back to normal.
Three Very Important Benefits of Vitamin B12
Good nutrition is what your body needs to properly operate. People in advertising talk a lot about how taking “Vitamin B Complex” will provide you with energy. But the different B vitamins work in different ways. In this article, we’re going to address the three main benefits of Vitamin B12:
- Nervous System
- Immune System
Benefit #1 – Energy
Perhaps the most prominent benefit of B12 is its ability to provide you with more energy. But how can something in a vitamin help you have more energy? Is it similar to consuming caffeine or sugar? No, those things fuel you with carbohydrates or artificially stimulate you with a drug.
A vitamin, on the other hand, is a coenzyme that works on the cellular level. Cells are the tiny, microscopic building blocks that make up your body. This is where the food you consume is converted to energy. You could eat all the food you want, but if your cells don’t change it into energy, or use it for maintenance, it would just be wasted. Simply put, B12 helps your body use the carbohydrates, amino acids and fats that you eat.
Your brain also uses a lot of energy. In fact, the brain uses more energy than any other single organ, approximately 20 percent of your body’s total energy requirements. We’ll get into other cognitive benefits in the next section, but another way your energy is boosted is through alertness and mental focus — the B12 energy boost isn’t just for your muscles. When you’re wide awake and feeling great, you know your body is getting the benefit of the food that you eat.
Benefit #2 – Nervous System
Sometimes you will see bottles on the vitamin shelves simply labeled as “Stress Vitamins.” If you look at the label, you’ll find that many of these formulas are predominantly packed with B complex vitamins. Why are B vitamins offered as a stress formula? Because vitamin B12, and the other B vitamins, help keep the nervous system functioning properly.
B vitamins promote brain health. They help regulate your stress levels. When a person is faced with a stressful situation, including job-related stress, the presence of B vitamins allow for better adaptation. B vitamins are also an important part of the composition of the brain cells and nerve tissue. They even help balance your mood. This is especially true with B12!
A good night’s sleep is another key aspect to a person’s health. Studies have found that the benefits of a restful sleep can include everything from improved short-term memory and fewer problems with depression to headache prevention and even better driving abilities. Enter B vitamins — whether they’re helping a person feel relaxed and capable of sleep, or they’re helping to improve the quality of that sleep, the B vitamins are there helping on both ends, and B12 is an essential part of this.
Benefit #3 – Immune System
Keeping up your quality of energy production and your body’s ability to maintain its nervous system are just two benefits of B12. The other primary benefit of B12: coming to the aid of your immune system, which is your body’s defense network designed to fight infectious organisms, diseases and other invaders.
Some of these benefits are especially helpful from middle-age on. As we age, we are more likely to be deficient in Vitamin B12, which can lead to a variety of health problems, including depression. In my experience, it is important to take vitamins and minerals (not just B12) on a daily basis, as well as consume a healthy and nutritious range of organic whole foods. The right quality supplements can provide vitamins and minerals in an absorbable form so that your immune system can reap the benefits.
Foods High in Vitamin B12
Now that you’re convinced of the many benefits of B12, let’s make sure you get a good daily dose! Animal foods, including fish, meat, dairy, and eggs, are among the best foods which have a high content of the B12. A strictly plant-based diet requires B12 supplementation. Here’s a quick list to keep in mind:
- Dairy Products
Although they are high in B12, I recommend avoiding pork and limiting shellfish as they are not the healthiest choices on this list. I feel a diet consisting of lots of fresh vegetables and fruit, fresh fish, lean chicken and turkey is one of the healthier diets to follow. Limiting processed and fast food as much as possible is extremely important. And of course, consuming organic, free range, and wild caught versions of the above when possible.
Which Vitamin B12 Supplement is Best?
Diamond Nutritionals’ Foundation Vitamins have many advantages to help you gain the benefits of B12. I rarely recommend taking Vitamin B12 alone, as those with low B12 almost always have other vitamin (and mineral) deficiencies. In my experience, taking a complete, balanced multivitamin and mineral formula daily allows for therapeutic blood and tissue levels of the vitamins and minerals we need each day. Vitamins and minerals work together in thousands of bio-chemical functions and processes in our body.
Each dose of 3 tablets provides 500 mcg. of methylcobalamin, which is the most easily absorbed form of B12. Each tablet is an ultra-high quality, highly absorbable, made-in-America vitamin and mineral formula. It is also important to note that all of the Diamond Nutritional formulas are free of gluten, yeast, artificial colors and flavors.
I believe you will find it to be quite beneficial and effective as so many of my patients have!
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