Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that plays a role in the production of red blood cells, the maintenance of the nervous system, and the proper metabolism of homocysteine to methionine. Common symptoms of a deficiency include fatigue, brain fog, and anemia. B12 deficiency has been linked to many neurological diseases including but not limited to; depression, anxiety, multiple sclerosis, and dementia.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is far more common than many people assume. Estimates do vary depending on the source, however many suggest anywhere from 9-16% of the population are outright deficient with 40% of adults aged 26-80 are on the borderline of deficiency (confirmed by the Framingham offspring study).
Why in such a world of abundance would a simple deficiency be so prevalent? There are many factors that can interfere with the absorption and metabolism of this key vitamin, listed below are the two key ones.
Reason 1 – Poor Dietary Habits
Vitamin B12 is only found in meat and animal foods, there’s no plant which synthesizes Vitamin B12 that humans can use. People who eat little to no animal products are near guaranteed to have a deficiency. This explains why up to 50% of vegetarians and 80% of vegans have inadequate levels of this essential nutrient.
Foods rich in B12 include eggs, milk, and cheese. Muscle and organ meats from chicken, pork, and beef are also particularly rich. Fish is another source with mackerel providing 300% RDA in a 100g serving. If you can’t manage to consume animal foods you frankly need to supplement to ensure adequate intake.
Reason 2 – Your GI Track Can’t Absorb it
B12 abortion takes place thanks to intrinsic factor – a protein secreted by our digestive system that binds to the vitamin and takes it into the bloodstream. Pernicious anemia affects 1-2% of older adults, the disease is characterized by the destruction of cells that produce intrinsic factor. Without intrinsic factor B12 absorption in the gut simply cannot take place.
Intrinsic factor requires adequate stomach acidity to be released. Without sufficient stomach acid levels, intrinsic factor release is halted and b12 absorption is vastly reduced. Individuals with low stomach acid (hypohydrochloria) are at an increased risk of B12 individuals, as are those who take PPI drugs that suppress stomach acid.
How To Restore Levels
Aside from treating the underlying cause, a Vitamin B12 supplement is the fastest way to restore B12 levels. There 4 key forms of B12 that are commonly available (cyanocobalamin, methylcobalamin, adenosylcobalamin, and hydroxocobalamin). The two forms used naturally by the body are methyl and adenosylcobalamin. Both cyano and hydroxocobalamin are had to be converted by the body to become bioavailable.
If stomach acid or intrinsic factor is low, even the best oral b12 tablet won’t be absorbed properly. For this reason, I recommend a Vitamin B12 Spray (as methylcobalamin ideally) which can be absorbed through the mucous membranes in the mouth and avoids the issues of absorption in the gut.
Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient required for many biochemical processes in the body. Its deficiency characterized by low energy, anemia, and neurological disorders is both common and unnecessary. Treating the underlying cause of deficiency is recommended, as is a B12 supplement to ensure optimal intake and restoration of low levels.