Although all nutrients and minerals are important for optimum health, there are a few nutrients that are critical to health. One of those nutrients is the Vitamin B complex. Are you getting enough?
A national survey for nutrition and health reported the US population is on average anywhere from 3% to 6% low in the B vitamins and may be a silent epidemic and more pervasive than they thought. (1)
How much do you need? It depends on your age, medical conditions, and your diet. If you have had weight loss surgery, celiac, Crohn’s Disease, taken commonly prescribed heartburn medications, or are eating a mainly vegetarian or vegan diet, these can all lead to vitamin B deficiencies.
This month I’m going to share some ways you can make certain you are getting an adequate amount of all the B vitamins.
Thiamine (Vitamin B1), riboflavin (Vitamin B2), and niacin (Vitamin B3), are necessary for energy production.
Vitamin B5, or pantothenic acid, helps the body use fats and proteins in food, and turns carbohydrates into blood sugar for energy. Foods that contain Vitamin B5 are whole grains, legumes, eggs, nuts, avocados, spinach, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, and tomatoes.
Vitamin B6 helps your body process protein, as well as supporting the nervous system and immune system. Vitamin B6 is in avocados, bananas, and eggs.
Biotin (Vitamin B7) helps the body produce hormones and aids in converting food into energy.
Folate (Vitamin B9) is found in citrus fruits, peanuts, and some mushrooms. Along with Vitamin A, it is concentrated in green vegetables like romaine lettuce, spinach, turnip greens, mustard greens, parsley, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, and lentils. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say expectant mothers need 400 mcg of folate daily before and during pregnancy to prevent birth defects in their babies’ brain and spine.(2)
The synthetic form of folate is folic acid. High intakes of folic acid have been associated with higher risks of cancer, as well as masking B12 deficiencies. So, if you use a B vitamin supplement, make sure it contains folate in a whole-food form of Vitamin B9.
Look for 5-methyltetrahydrofolate or 5-MTHF as the folate, and avoid supplements that contain folic acid.
Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, is unique in that it is almost exclusively found in animal sources such as meat, fish, dairy, and eggs. It is the B vitamin I have found to be vitally important for vegetarians in particular. As Dr. Joseph Mercola notes, “microorganisms, primarily bacteria, are the only known organisms that manufacture B12. These bacteria often live in bodies of water and soil. Animals get B12 by eating food and soil contaminated with these microorganisms.”(3) The bacteria require cobalt to produce B12, which is why it is also known as cobalamin. Plant food can provide Vitamin B12 if it is taken from soil containing cobalt and is not cleaned, leaving the bacteria on it.
People eating a mostly plant-based diet should have their blood checked by a doctor to make certain they are getting enough B12 and other B vitamins, including folate. Vegans, who eat no animal products at all, should consistently eat foods fortified with Vitamin B12—such as breakfast cereals—two or three times each day to get at least 3 mcg of B12 daily. For example, if a fortified plant milk contains 1 mcg of Vitamin B12 per serving, then consuming three servings a day will provide adequate Vitamin B12. Other vegans may find the use of Vitamin B12 supplements more convenient and economical.
The less frequently you obtain Vitamin B12, the more you need to take, as Vitamin B12 is best absorbed in small amounts. A daily supplement of 10 mcg is required. But, the body’s ability to absorb vitamin B12 from dietary supplements is limited. “For example, only about 10 mcg of a 500 mcg oral supplement is actually absorbed in healthy people.”(4)
I have been using a new type of vitamin B12 called Methylcobalamin. You take it by spraying it under your tongue. This type of sprayable vitamin supplement is more absorbable.
Methylcobalamin “is the most active form of B12 in the human body. It converts homocysteine into methionine, which helps protect the cardiovascular system. Methylcobalamin also offers overall protection to the nervous system.
This Methylcobalamin B12 form can also cross the blood- brain barrier–without assistance–to protect brain cells. It contributes essential methyl groups needed for detoxification and to start the body’s biochemical reactions.”(5)
Look for this type of supplement. When taking vitamins, you want to thrive, not just survive.
Symptoms of deficiency include energy loss, tingling, numbness, reduced sensitivity to pain or pressure, blurred vision, abnormal gait, sore tongue, poor memory, confusion, hallucinations, and personality changes. Often these symptoms develop gradually over several months to a year before they are recognized as being due to a B12 deficiency, and they are usually reversible upon the administration of B12.(6)
When I read this list of symptoms, I was really surprised. Lack of Vitamin B could have been one of the contributing factors to the vision problems I had battled all of my life.
According to Optometrist Ben C. Lane of the Optical Society, there is a link between nearsightedness, and chromium and calcium levels, which are lowered by sugar and protein consumption. The excessive intake of sugar and overcooked proteins exhausts the body’s supplies of chromium and B vitamins. Fluid pressure in the eye, a contributing factor of nearsightedness, is regulated by the B vitamins.(7)
Make certain you are getting adequate amounts of all of the B vitamins.
1. Agricultural Research magazine.
B12 Deficiency May Be More Widespread Than Thought By Judy McBride, August 2, 2000
4.. Carmel, R. (2008). “How I treat cobalamin (vitamin B12) deficiency.” Blood, 112: 2214-21.
5.. Group, Edward. (November 11, 2014). “Vitamin B12 Benefits: 4 Types and Their Health Benefits.”
7. . Goulart, Frances Sheridan. (1991, March 1). “Are You Sugar Smart? Linked to Heart Attacks, Kidney Disease, Diabetes and Other Diseases, Sugar Is to the ’90s What Cholesterol Was to the ’80s (Includes 9 ways to Cope with Sugar Cravings).” American Fitness. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-
By Nancy Addison
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