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In a 2015 study published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers teamed up to measure the effectiveness of the combination of fish oils and vitamin B12 in attempt to measure overall better health, reduced risk for systemic health issues and increased longevity. (1)
Both of these nutrients are common deficiencies in the west. Vitamin B12 is a major deficiency for vegetarians, as there are minimal B12-rich foods in most vegetarian diets. More commonly, however, is the impact of medications and weak digestion that commonly renders the body deficient in B12.
Medications, like antacids and others, disturb the production of stomach acid, which is required for the stomach to manufacture a protein called “the intrinsic factor” – whose job it is to deliver B12 to the liver, brain, heart and nervous system. The result is that even when B12 levels are low-normal, people can experience fatigue, brain fog, poor memory, loss of brain volume, and a host of other health concerns. (3)
Omega-3 fish oils are also a common deficiency in the body, mostly due to the fact that people have limited their consumption of fish as a result of high mercury levels in most oceans, lakes and streams. Years ago, fish was a dietary staple, but per the suggestion from the FDA, fish consumption is way down. (2)
Constituents of both Omega-3’s and B12, taken on their own, have been shown to reduce homocysteine levels. (5, 6) Elevated plasma homocysteine levels are associated with cardiovascular, cognitive and bone concerns, and even complications with pregnancy. (4)
In the study, the researchers set out to see if supplementing with fish oils and B12 would work together to have an even more powerful synergistic benefit for the body to reduce homocysteine levels.
In the study, 30 men were divided into three groups:
- One group was given 1000mcg of B12
- Another group received 2000mg of fish oils
- And the third group received 2000mg of fish oils and 1000mcg of B12.
Before the study, and at 4 and 8 week intervals during the study, they measured homocysteine levels, as well as triglycerides and ferritin (to determine how well the body stores iron).
Homocysteine was lowered by 22% in the B12 group, and 19% in the fish oil group. The group that received both the B12 and the fish oils saw a 39% reduction in homocysteine. (1)
If you have been vegetarian, have weak digestion, have been on any medications long-term and/or you have been restricting the amount of fish you consume, and/or do not tolerate fats very well, consider supporting yourself with B12 (the best is sublingual to ensure absorption) and a high quality fish oil.
Note: While elevated homocysteine levels are associated with increased risk for several health concerns, research is still inconclusive as to whether lowering homocysteine levels will help maintain optimal health on its own. Individuals concerned about hyperhomocysteinemia, generally defined as blood plasma concentrations above 15 µmol/L, should work with their healthcare practitioner to develop a holistic health plan to address all the potential causes of their abnormally elevated levels.