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. In 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 blood stream.
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: Our Lifespa B-12 Boost are natural cherry-flavored tablets that are extremely popular here in our clinic. They are tasty, tiny and dissolve quickly under the tongue. They are manufactured in an FDA registered, GMP certified facility according to the highest quality standards and are formulated for optimal absorption.
Please note: It is best if B12, B6 and Folic Acid are combined because they are synergistically active. Each of these vitamins can be toxic if taken alone at very high levels. The B-12 Boost formula contains all three of these vitamins in the synergistic ratio.