Research reveals many benefits
Natasha Turner, ND
For better memory and stronger bones, one key nutrient can make a big difference: vitamin B12. Check out the health benefits of this versatile vitamin.
For better memory, fewer canker sores, stronger bones, and a healthy pregnancy, one key nutrient can make a big difference. Getting enough of it can be as simple as cracking a few more eggs, enjoying plenty of grilled organic chicken on your salads, or bumping up your shellfish intake.
These foods along with fish, milk, cheese, fortified cereals, and soy products are all excellent sources of vitamin B12 , an essential nutrient generally known for its role in maintaining our energy, producing red blood cells and cellular DNA, and supporting healthy heart and nervous system function.
Consider some of the latest research on what this versatile vitamin can do for you.
1: Maintain the brain
According to a study published in a 2008 issue of Neurology, people with higher vitamin B12 levels were six times less likely to experience age-related brain shrinkage compared to those who had lower levels of the vitamin.
Surprisingly, none of the people in the study were diagnosed with vitamin B12 deficiency, which suggests that optimal blood levels of vitamin B12 may actually be higher than current laboratory guidelines. In my clinical practice, I consider a blood B12 value greater than 600 to be ideal.
2: Slow age-related macular degeneration
According to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine (2009), daily use of a combination of vitamins B6, B12 , and folic acid decreased the risk of one of the leading causes of vision loss in older people, age-related macular degeneration.
The beneficial effects were a result of the vitamins causing a reduction of homocysteine, a type of protein associated with dysfunction of the blood vessel lining.
3: Stop recurrent canker sores
Doctors at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev have discovered that a nightly dose of 1,000 mcg of vitamin B12 is a simple, effective, and low-risk therapy to prevent recurrent aphthous stomatitis, better known as canker sores.
Almost 75 percent of the patients who received the nightly dose of vitamin B12 achieved remission at the end of the six month study, compared to just 32 percent of the placebo group.
4: Strengthen the bones
Researchers at Tufts University have found vitamin B12 deficiency is linked with low levels of markers of bone formation and a greater risk of osteoporosis. The researchers went on to encourage anyone over 50 to consume foods fortified with B12 or to use supplements.
5: Prevent neural tube defects
Although folic acid has normally been considered the star vitamin for the prevention of neural tube defects, a study published in the March 2009 edition of Pediatrics has shown vitamin B12 to be just as important.
The researchers found that women with the lowest B12 levels had five times the risk of having a child with a neural tube defect compared to women with the highest B12 levels.
|Recommended daily intake (RDI) for B12|
|0 to 6 months||0.4 mcg|
|7 to 12 months||0.5 mcg|
|1 to 3 years||0.9 mcg|
|4 to 8 years||1.2 mcg|
|9 to 3 years||1.8 mcg|
|14 years and older||2.4 mcg|
|pregnant women||2.6 mcg|
|breastfeeding women||2.8 mcg|
As 10 to 30 percent of people over 50 have difficulty absorbing vitamin B12 from food, they should consider supplementing with 25 to 1,000 mcg of B12 daily.
When to supplement
Those who consume little or no animal-based foods are most likely to have low B12 levels, along with individuals who have intestinal disorders or low stomach acid, which may impede B12 absorption.
Low stomach acid may occur with aging, stress, or in association with medical conditions such as asthma, allergies, or hypothyroidism. For these individuals, supplements of B12 are often best taken via injection or in sublingual or lozenge form.