In his book, Your Nutrition Prescription, Dr. H.L. Newbold, tells the story of a 76-year old German woman who came to see him.
She had been crying uncontrollably for 6 months and was unable to function fully because of her state. Despite a normal B12 blood level he still gave her an injection of B12.
She returned to his office three days later, no longer crying, reporting that she had felt stronger than she’d felt in a long time and she was even able to sleep through the night for the first time in many nights. Three days after that she was actually happy again that she was able to do her housekeeping.
And that, my friends, is the dramatic effect that B12 can have on the elderly.
Are YOU Low?
If there’s one vitamin that older people are frequently low in, it’s vitamin B12. In one study, 15% of adults older than 65 had clinically low levels of this vitally important vitamin, and most nutritionists think the number is much higher.
One of the reasons you may be low in vitamin B12 is that in order to absorb it, you need a protein found in the gastric juice of the stomach called intrinsic factor. As we get older we make less acid, and have less intrinsic factor. Antacids play havoc with the ability to make this critical chemical, without which we won’t absorb much vitamin B12, even if we’re eating plenty of it.
Additional symptoms of B12 deficiency include depression and low energy. And B12 is critical for reducing homocysteine, a nasty amino acid that can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Research has shown that high levels of homocysteine double the risk of dementia or cognitive impairment.
B12 and Alzheimer’s
And before I forget, let’s talk about Alzheimer’s. There was an interesting study done in Wales, which looked at whether or not Alzheimer’s disease was a result of vitamin B12 deficiency. While this subject is still hotly debated among physicians, this study seemed to show very clearly that there is indeed a link. Researchers evaluated members of a family with a genetic predisposition towards Alzheimer’s disease. They found that 67 percent of family members with confirmed Alzheimer’s disease also had abnormally low blood levels of vitamin B12, compared to 8 percent who were at equal genetic risk for developing Alzheimer’s but did not.
More Praise for B12
But you don’t have to be old to take B12. In fact there is a litany of other reasons why it’s important to keep your B12 status at adequate levels. B12 can help remineralize bones, inhibit the replication of the HIV virus and has been shown to be effective against asthma if the asthma is sulfite induced. And B12 can greatly improve nervous system function which also makes it beneficial for those with diabetic neuropathy and multiple sclerosis. It protects against environmental toxins, enhances immunity and may even help with sleep disorders.
A Note for My Vegetarian and Vegan Friends
Vegetarians- and especially vegans- are also at risk for vitamin B12 deficiencies, not only because they don’t get much from their food, but because they often don’t eat enough protein to make the essential “intrinsic factor”. Foods that are high in B12 include clams, liver, trout, sockeye salmon and beef.
How to Take B12
For most people, at the very least a multivitamin with all the B’s makes a lot of sense. And many people find that they just feel a bit better when they take a high-quality B complex as well. Remember that if you take B12 as a separate supplement, take it separately from the B complex. The B’s work like an orchestra and are best taken together. Any member of the B family- like B12- that you take in addition, should be taken separately.
We like this formulation for two reasons:
- It’s the methylcobalamin form of B12 which is much better, eliminating the need for the liver to convert the cheaper cyanocobalamin to the active form of vitamin B12.
- It’s a lozenge. The body’s able to absorb B12 directly through the mucosal tissue of the mouth making this an ideal way to increase B12 levels quickly.