So, everyone is talking about it, but why?
Why is Vitamin B12 so important?
If I told you that Vitamin B12 is required for the synthesis of fatty acids in myelin and DNA synthesis, that might not mean that much to you but let me explain a bit more.
I shall begin with what can happen when one is deficient in Vitamin B12:
- Pale skin pallor
- Low energy
- Low exercise tolerance
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Sensory disturbances in the extremities
- Muscle twitches and disturbances
- Cognitive changes like memory loss/dementia and possible mood change
- Visual Disturbances
- Impaired bowel and bladder control
As this extensive list of symptoms suggests, Vitamin B12 is doing something incredibly important. If its lacking in the body, many negative side effects occur.
First, I am going to begin with DNA.
DNA is that pretty double helix shaped image (twisted ladder) that you sometimes glimpse in a biology text book, possibly hear David Attenborough say whilst talking about the genes of a Sperm Whale or Facebook ads trying to sell you an expensive biohack.
Simply, DNA is the reason anything that is alive, is alive. DNA contains all the instructions to create all the tiny cells, to create the muscles in your body and working organs, your skin, your eyes, your hair; all to create you, a living human.
DNA is like that set of instructions you get in that IKEA flatpack which you throw away (which, luckily, your body can’t do).
DNA carries all the instructions necessary for you to start life from a sperm and egg to, hopefully, living to 120+ years of age; for growth development and reproduction.
Impressively, all the stored data in your body in DNA to create you is 150 Zettabytes!
I don’t know exactly how many hard drives that is but this table gives a bit more information.
So, we know that DNA is super important. You could say that it is a matter of life and death.
And what happens to DNA in a Vitamin B12 deficient environment?
Well, the important reactions that need to occur to create DNA fail; they just can’t happen.
This has effects on your:
- Which effects your ability to get energy, nutrients and oxygen to your muscles for everyday activities throughout the day and keeping up with your Zumba class without getting winded.
- Affected blood cells will leave you feeling constantly fatigued, your skin looking pale and dull as repair work for new skin is halted due to failed DNA synthesis.
- Heart palpitations can occur as the muscle weakens due to lack of renewed heart muscle and important energy can’t keep the heart working at a constant pace.
- Neurological (brain) complications are correlated to the occurrence of haematological (blood) symptoms.
- The brain and the body are connected by the nervous system. Simply, the nerves which can sense touch, smell, temperature (all the senses), sends signals which travel from your nerves via the nervous system, along your spinal cord, up to your brain.
- Do you remember me saying something about Vitamin B12 being important for Myelin synthesis? Myelin plays an important role in the nervous system and allows nerve/brain messages to travel throughout the body at lightning speeds, faster than the speed of light.
- When myelin can’t be made because there is a lack of Vitamin B12 so many bad things happen!
- Those signals and messages become slow, delayed. Things like brain fog, memory loss, dementia, mood/personality change, eye damage, muscle spasms and sensory disturbances in the limbs, infertility, spontaneous abortions; the scariest one for me is the “degeneration of the spinal cord” can happen!
3. Gut problems.
- Once again, without DNA to create new muscles when old muscle tissues get’s tired and worn out all chaos can happen. This can result in impaired bowel and bladder control.
Now that I have thoroughly scared you, the bottom line is … Vitamin B12 is super important!!!!
It is imperative that you get a blood test that checks your Vitamin B12 every year. No exceptions. Get your trusted vegan friendly GP to check your; Full blood count, Serum Vitamin B12, Plasma Homocysteine and Plasma MMA levels. Tell your Doc this, he will know what to do.
The reason I am so hard on this one is that Vitamin B12 is so important for you to live your best life.
I don’t want to hear any BS that ‘Your blood results show that your B12 levels are fine even though you don’t supplement/ you only eat foods that have naturally occurring Vitamin B12/ your body makes its own Vitamin B12/ I don’t need to take a blood test because I feel fine’.
This is because your liver has a store of Vitamin B12 for 2-5 years. You may not be deficient now but you will be.
As for the naturally occurring Vitamin B12 in vegan food sources, your body creating its own Vitamin B12, how much Vitamin B12 you should have, and causes of Vitamin B12 deficiencies, I encourage you to keep learning and educating yourself. More is coming on these topics soon, so….
Until next time!
To your health,
Fenech, M. (2001) The role of folic acid and vitamin B12 in genomic stability of human cells. Mutation Research, 45(1-2). 57-67. http://doi.org/10.1016/S0027-5107(01)00079.3
Moll, R., & Davis, B. (2017) Iron, Vitamin B12 and folate. Medicine, 45(4), 198-203. doi:10.1016/j.mpmed.2017.01.007
Paul, C., & Brady, D. M. (2017). Comparative Bioavailability and Utilization of Particular Forms of B12 Supplements with Potential to Mitigate B12-related Genetic Polymorphisms. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal, 19(1), 42-49. http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.newcastle.edu.au/eds/detail/detail?vid=0&sid=71efe8cd-d06f-4a1fae3f4b710cc62d3a%40sessionmgr104&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU%3d#AN=123816638&db=ccm
Essentials of Human Nutrition (4th ed.) (2012) by Jim Mann and Stewart Truswell.
Biochemsistry: A short Course (2nd ed.) (2013) by John Tymoczko, Jeremy Berg and Lubert Stryer