Vitamin B12 and our oxygen levels
Vitamin B12 is a substance that our bodies need in minute quantities. Yet, it helps us to be energetic, think clearly and stay healthy.
Vitamin B12 (also called cobalamin) plays an important role in the production of red blood cells in the body. Although a deficiency in this vitamin may cause serious illnesses, we need it in smaller amounts than any other vitamin.
Normally from vitamin B12-releasing microbes (microscopic organisms) that live in the soil and natural water. When grazing animals eat it together with plants like grass, they ingest the vitamin. It is also acquired through drinking natural, unchlorinated water in rivers and wells. Poultry get B12 from scratching in the soil for worms and insects.
The ingested vitamin B12 collects in the bodies of animals. When we eat them, we also acquire vitamin B12.
This is why it is accepted that vegans need vitamin B12 supplements, injections or fortified food like cereals.
But meat-eaters, and even farm animals, also need vitamin B12 supplements.
Due to intensive animal agriculture methods, farmed animals are kept indoors and never see natural, untreated water or soil. Furthermore, farming methods deplete the soil and water of vitamin B12-producing bacteria.
The result is that farm animals and poultry don’t acquire vitamin B12 like they used to and become vitamin B12 deficient. When people consume the meat and dairy from these animals, they too become deficient.
To overcome this problem, farmers are supplementing this vitamin in animal feed. Around 95% of all manufactured vitamin B12 supplements are fed to vitamin B12 deficient farmed animals. People who then eat the meat and dairy from these animals are just receiving the synthetic vitamin B12 that “the middle man-animals” have been fed.
A study by The Framingham Offspring found there was no difference in the vitamin B12 levels of those who ate meat and those who did not. The people with the highest B12 blood levels were those who were taking B12 supplements and eating B12 fortified cereals.
Furthermore, certain health conditions affect vitamin B12 absorption for vegans and non-vegans alike.
The body can only absorb small amounts of vitamin B12 at a time. This explains why dosages are given in microgram (mcg). One microgram (mcg) is 0.000001 gram (g).
The recommended daily dose for adults ranges around 2,4 mcg per day. Pregnant and lactating mothers need more and should consult a doctor about the correct dosage for them. People over 50 don’t absorb vitamin B12 well through food and should take vitamin B12 supplements.
However, the Framingham Offspring found no difference in B12 levels of younger and older adults. This further emphasizes that all of us need to supplement our vitamin B12 intake.
For best absorption, ingest small amounts of fortified food or supplements throughout the day.
Chew them well or let them dissolve in the mouth.
People who have problems absorbing B12 through their digestive system should get vitamin B12 injections.
It is estimated that the body can’t absorb more than around 10mcg vitamin B12 daily.
Vitamin B12 is water-soluble and if we consume too much, it is released into our urine. The body rarely reaches toxic levels of this vitamin.
However, some diseases may cause too much vitamin B12 in the body. This includes kidney failure, blood cancer and blood disorders, leukemia and liver disease.
Early symptoms of too much vitamin B12 include appetite loss and fatigue.
Severe vitamin B12 deficiency may affect around 15% of people.
One of the most important results of vitamin B12 deficiency is a lack of healthy red blood cells in our body. This is called megaloblastic anemia. Red blood cells carry oxygen, and if we have too few of them, we also have too little oxygen.
Here are six health problems that too little vitamin B12 usually causes:
Megaloblastic anemia weakens red blood cells. When the liver breaks them down, it releases bilirubin. Bilirubin is brownish and gives the skin a yellowish tone of jaundice.
Too little oxygen in the body can make one feel tired.
3. Fast heart rate and shortness of breath
To ensure that enough oxygen reaches the organs, the heart may start to beat faster.
4. Sore tongue and mouth
When not enough oxygen reaches the mouth, the tongue may become swollen, smooth and red. Ulcers and a burning sensation in the mouth may also occur.
5. Cognitive impairment
Too little oxygen in the brain may lead to poor reasoning, memory loss, irritability, depression, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
6. Digestive problems
A lack of red blood cells may affect the digestive tract and cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Symptoms usually disappear when the deficiency is corrected.
Diseases such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, atrophic gastritis and pernicious anemia affect absorption.
Taking anti-acid medication for an extended period.
Stomach surgery such as for weight loss may affect absorption.
4. Medicine Interactions
Medicines like the antibiotic chloramphenicol and those for the control of acid reflux and type 2 diabetes may prevent absorption.
5. High homocysteine levels
Vitamin B12 reduces levels of the amino acid homocysteine in the body. That is to say, too little B12 leads to high levels of homocysteine. This may cause chronic conditions like heart disease, stroke, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
People who don’t ingest enough vitamin B12 sometimes have elevated levels of homocysteine. A homocysteine level blood test may show vitamin B12 deficiency. Fortunately, folate (vitamin B9), such as in green vegetables, reduces homocysteine levels.