B12 is a key water-soluble vitamin that is necessary for the protection of the heart, brain, and nervous system.
According to a study at Tufts University in Boston, almost 40% of Americans are B12 deficient. For strict vegetarians and vegans, the risk is significantly higher – B12 deficiency is almost ubiquitous among this group. Even if you aren’t deficient by medical standards, low levels of B12 can have concerning side effects.
Perhaps the most arresting of these side effects is the risk of cognitive decline. Studies conducted on B12 levels in the elderly have found that those with lower levels of B12 were more likely to have issues with actual brain shrinkage and memory loss.
In a three-year Swedish study of 370 healthy elderly adults who were at least 75 years of age, those with even slightly low levels of vitamin B12 and folate had twice the risk of cognitive and memory concerns as did those with normal levels of these vitamins. (1)
What makes B12 such a common deficiency? The size of the molecule itself is very big – the biggest, in fact, of all the known vitamins. In order to absorb this vitamin – which happens at the end of the small intestine – the body conducts a sophisticated process that involves plenty of intrinsic factor, a glycoprotein produced by the parietal cells of the stomach.
Many factors can reduce the body’s ability to absorb B12, including pernicious anemia (usually an autoimmune condition in which the intrinsic factor or the parietal cells of the stomach themselves are targeted by autoantibodies). If your digestive fire is weak – as indicated, in part, by trouble digesting wheat and dairy – chances are high that absorption of B12 will also be compromised.
Other reasons for decreased absorption include a prolonged increase in body temperature (as in hyperthyroidism), pregnancy, and gastrointestinal diseases that cause malabsorption.
Supplementation of B12 has had to get creative, as any supplement that requires passage through the digestive tract would encounter the same absorption problems as do dietary sources of B12. Nowadays B12 injections are common, as is the sublingual form of supplementation, which is quicker and easier and has shown to absorb quickly into the bloodstream.
It is uncommon to have increased B12 levels. As B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, any excess B12 is usually excreted by the kidneys via the urine.
B6 and Folic Acid play important supporting roles for B12. When looking for a B12 supplement, be sure to find one that delivers the proper ration of these supporting B vitamins as well.
1. Wang HX, Wahlin A, Basun H, et al. Vita- min B(12) and folate in relation to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Neurology. 2001 May 8;56(9):1188-94.
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B-12 Boost is the most biologically active form of the water-soluble B vitamin, folate. It is the preferred form of folate supplementation due to an array of conditions that can limit conversion or absorption of folic acid. Data indicate that supplementing with 5-MTHF increases plasma folate more effectively than folic acid. MecobalActive™, which is found in the B-12 Boost™ formula, is a highly pure form of methylcobalamin that does not use any harmful solvents during manufacture.*