H.H., Newark, New Jersey
Answer: The most important job for B12 is to make sure that cells in the body divide properly and carry the right gene information. This powerful “B” vitamin has a strong affinity for nerve and brain tissue making it useful in treating neurological conditions such as depression, Chronic Fatigue Immuno Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS) and Alzheimer’s Disease. Studies have also shown that B12 can prevent smokers from developing mouth/throat cancer. Since B12 lowers homocysteine levels in the blood, it protects against heart disease. Lots of drugs deplete B12 from the body including most antibiotics, anti-ulcer drugs, diabetic and gout medication, potassium, cholestyramine and oral contraceptives.
Symptoms of deficiency include fatigue, weakness in the arms and legs, sore tongue, low appetite, depression, confusion, disorientation, poor balance or numbness and tingling in the hands/feet. Traditional blood testing for B12 levels does not always identify a deficiency. A better indicator of B12 levels is through a urine “methylmalonic acid” test, which can identify B12 deficiency, even when blood levels are perfectly normal.
The important thing with B12, whether a deficiency shows up or not, is that it is really hard to overdose on it. People can safely supplement 1 to 2 thousand micrograms per week and usually do well. This type of dosing would obviously require medical supervision. This is why the USRDA’s standard of 6 micrograms per day is useless when it comes to advancing health. Vitamin B12 is available in naturally from beef, liver, blue cheese, clams, flounder, herring, liverwurst, mackerel, milk, oysters and sardines.
I don’t know anybody that eats a lot of this. Plus, B12 is not absorbed well from the GI tract -especially if you are older- making injections the best choice for replenishment. The type of B12 matters though, I feel that “methylcobalamin” is a much better version of B12 than “cyanocobalamin” because it nourishes the nerves better. The “cyano” form requires a lot of work from your body and according to studies, it is not as effective as “methyl” B12. I’ve written an entire chapter on B12, and the proper forms and dosages. For more on this, see the chapter entitled, “Methylcobalamin” in my other book, Drug Muggers.
Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.