Here’s the dirt: Vitamin B-12 is a very important micronutrient, essential for the metabolism of every cell in the entire body.
This water-soluble vitamin is essential for the health of the entire nervous system and plays an important role in the formation of healthy red blood cells. But contrary to popular belief, B12 is produced by bacteria and doesn’t originate in either animal or plant-based foods.
So what is B12? And how do we get it?
What is B12?
and is sometimes referred to as the “energy vitamin”, as it usually increases one’s energy levels.
Unlike other water- soluble nutrients, B-12 is stored in the liver, kidneys, and other body tissues for up to five years. Deficiency is usually slow to appear, however studies are showing that 40% of Americans today are suffering from low Vitamin B-12 levels. Unlike popular belief, this is not something only plant-based peeps suffer from.
What is B12 Deficiency?
Symptoms of B-12 deficiency (Pernicious anemia) may present itself in the following ways:
- fatigue & weakness
- light headedness & dizziness
- heart palpitations
- sore, red, glazed looking tongue
- nausea, diarrhea
- memory loss, forgetfulness
- numbness, tingling of hands or feet
- poor coordination
There are a few factors: impaired digestion (low stomach acid), malabsorption, lack of calcium, certain medications, and age. Absorption decreases as we get older, which is why it’s imperative we keep our digestive systems working at an optimum level.
Folic acid, or folate, is found in leafy green vegetables – which leads me to believe that the reason 40% of meat-eating Americans who are low in B-12, aren’t eating enough GREENS. BAM!
It’s safe to assume that those who follow the SAD diet (standard American diet), are also deficient in stomach acid (which can be depleted by diets high in animal products, processed foods, low-nutrient intake), which as mentioned, is another factor in the absorption of B-12.
Low stomach acid may also be a symptom of vegetarianism, as the harder-to-digest proteins are non longer present, therefore, the stomach produces less HCl. Supply & demand. This could effect the absorption of B-12 in our plant-eating friends too. B-12 deficiency does not discriminate.
Where Does B12 Come From?
B-12 is produced by the bacteria of the digestive tract and by microbial fermentation of foods. It used to be found in the soil, and available on un-washed vegetables, however, our soil is so depleted, the nutrient levels are no longer sufficient.
There are several B-12 fortified foods available on the market these days as well – how well they absorb? I couldn’t tell you, so if you are dealing with low B-12 levels, I’d suggest supplementing to be on the safe side.
Who Needs to Take B12 Supplements?
We ALL need to take care of our nutritional and digestive needs, plant-based or not. Be smart.
Omnivores, vegans and vegetarians alike should have their levels tested every few years as a precaution.
Vegans and vegetarians especially if they’re not supplementing (as they should), as B-12 is only found in animal products (largely due to the supplementation of livestock) and fortified foods such as some plant milks.
B12 is commonly available as either cyano or methyl-cobalamin.
Cyano is more commonly available, less expensive and has a longer shelf-life. Methyl is less common, more expensive, and has a shorter shelf-life, although it may provide some slight advantage in overall absorption.
Supplementation range: 30-5000 mcg daily, with no apparent toxicity reported, and since it works synergistically with folic acid, eat your vegetables! and/or purchase a B-12/Folic Acid complex.
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