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The Importance of Vitamin B-12

Last week I was listening to a national radio program’s health hour.  A caller inquired about Vitamin B12.  The doctor’s response was that taking B-12 was “quackery,” that there was no justification for taking it.  Since I recently completed my nutrition studies, I went right to my resources to review the actions and importance of Vitamin B-12.  Here are my findings:

Vitamin B-12, known as cobalamine because of its cobalt content, is a member of the B-complex family.  It is necessary for red blood cell formation, tissue and cellular repair, participates in the synthesis of DNA, and is important in neurological functions.

The liver does store about three to six years of B-12, so deficiencies are rare in people.  However, deficiencies can occur leading to various forms of anemia (causing a loss of oxygen carrying capacity of our red blood cells), neuropathies such as numbness and tingling in our hands and feet, fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, depression, confusion, and soreness around the mouth and tongue.

Vitamin B-12 is found in animal foods, eggs, dairy, some nutritional yeast products, and fortified in cereals.  The elderly, vegetarians, and vegans are most at risk of deficiencies of B-12 as well as people consuming a high volume of alcohol.  B-12 provides methyl donors important in the breakdown of proteins and for synthesizing DNA, our human blueprint.  When we ingest B-12 containing foods, this vitamin is released in the stomach by hydrochloric acid and gastric protease (enabling protein breakdown/digestion).  The stomach also releases intrinsic factor that binds to the B-12 and enables absorption into the bloodstream.

Low stomach acid, therefore, may lead to deficiencies in B-12 and disrupt its important functions.  As we age, stomach acid secretions oftentimes diminish.  Poor dietary choices can lead to low stomach acid as well as other digestive and intestinal disorders causing poor absorption of nutrients no matter how much one takes or the quality of intake.

The best insurance for healthy cells in all of our tissues and especially the brain and nerves is to consume fresh, clean, whole foods including lots of fruits and vegetables.  These foods contain all the necessary cofactors that enable the plants and fruits to survive in their environments such as warding off pests and absorbing the right nutrients from air, soil, and rain to survive.  When we eat them we receive the same benefits of all the nutrients working together.  Therefore, we also survive in a healthier fashion.  The key is always to thoroughly wash our foods to remove residues of herbicides, pesticides, dirt, and bugs.

I personally feel that including Vitamin B-12 foods along with all B-complex family of vitamins in our diet insures our liver has adequate stores for all its many functions.  This is not “quackery.”  This is good physiological science.

Krystle Shapiro, LMT, MSHN owns Touchstone Massage Therapies and Nutrition Plus! She is the founding member of the Sandpoint Wellness Council.  She can be reached at 208/290-6760.

Photo by SweetOnVeg

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