Category: Natural chemicals
Introduction and description
Vitamin B12, is also called cobalamin. It is a water-soluble vitamin with a key role in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system, and for the formation of blood. It is one of the eight B vitamins. It is involved in the metabolism of every cell of the human body, especially affecting DNA synthesis and regulation, but also fatty acid synthesis (especially odd chain fatty acids) and energy production.
Neither fungi, plants, nor animals are capable of producing vitamin B12.
Only bacteria and archaea have the enzymes required for its synthesis, thus the only way we can get Vitamin B12 [as we do not have the necessary bacteria in our intestines] is to eat animals or plants that do have these bacteria and have produced vitamin B12 and stored it in usable form. Although many attempts have been made to manufacture vitamin B12, none has really been successful. Cyanocobalamin, the principal B12 form used in nutritional supplements can cause rare cases of eye nerve damage, when the body is only marginally able to use this form.
Most of the edible blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) used for human supplements predominantly contain pseudovitamin B(12), which is inactive in humans. The edible cyanobacteria are not suitable for use as vitamin B(12) sources, especially in vegans. PMID: 17959839
Vitamin B12 contains cobalt and more details about the relationship between cobalt and this vitamin can be found in the section on cobalt.
In the body Vitamin B12 is converted to the human physiological forms methylcobalamin and deoxy-adenosylcobalamin, leaving behind cyanide in minute concentrations. Now you may wonder why Nature should have developed a function that left cyanide in the body, but we can now turn to homeopathic medicine where we find that truly minute traces of cyanide have been used to treat [and I quote from Boericke's Materia Medica],
- Severe neuralgia in temporal region, recurring daily at same hour
- Pain in orbital and supramaxillary region, with screaming and loss of consciousness.
- Ulcer of tongue, with indurated edges
- Speech difficulties or Power of speech lost but intelligence intact.
- Cough which prevents sleep; respiration weak; cannot take deep breath.
As such we can conclude that cyanide has its uses and if it is not needed it is presumably expelled from the body. Synthetically produced versions of Vitamin B12 does not go through this bodily conversion process, so if you are screaming or have speech difficulties and ulcers and are Vitamin B12 deficient you now know why!
Vitamin B12 imbalance
Vitamin B12 deficiency can potentially cause severe and irreversible damage, especially to the brain and nervous system. At levels only slightly lower than normal, a range of symptoms such as fatigue, depression, and poor memory may be experienced.
Optimal functioning of the central and peripheral nervous system is dependent on a constant supply of appropriate nutrients. Particularly important for optimal functioning of the nervous system is cobalamin (vitamin B12). Cobalamin deficiency is particularly common in the elderly and after gastric surgery. Many patients with clinically expressed cobalamin deficiency have intrinsic factor-related malabsorption such as that seen in pernicious anemia. The commonly recognized neurological manifestations of cobalamin deficiency include a myelopathy with or without an associated neuropathy. This review deals with neurological aspects of vitamin B12 deficiency and attempts to highlight recent developments. PMID: 24365360
Overdose appears to be rare, however, the symptoms when they do occur are identical to those for poisoning - nauea, vomiting, etc
Causes of Vitamin B12 imbalance
- Stomach disease - Vitamin B12 was discovered from its relationship to the disease pernicious anaemia, caused by destruction of the parietal cells of the stomach by bacteria, viruses, pharmaceuticals, parasites, heavy metals etc. These cells are responsible for secreting intrinsic factor. Intrinsic factor is crucial for the normal absorption of B12, so a lack of intrinsic factor, as seen in pernicious anemia, causes a vitamin B12 deficiency. Protein-bound vitamin B12 must be released from the proteins by the action of digestive proteases in both the stomach and small intestine. Gastric acid releases the vitamin from food particles; therefore antacid and acid-blocking medications (especially proton-pump inhibitors) can inhibit absorption of B12. In addition some elderly people produce less stomach acid as they age thereby increasing their probability of B12 deficiencies.
- Liver disease or damage - The total amount of vitamin B12 stored in the body is about 2–5 mg in adults. Around 50% of this is stored in the liver. Approximately 0.1% of this is lost per day by secretions into the gut. Bile is the main form of B12 excretion; however, most of the B12 secreted in the bile is recycled via enterohepatic circulation. Excess B12 beyond the blood's binding capacity is typically excreted in urine. Owing to the extremely efficient enterohepatic circulation of B12, the liver can store several years’ worth of vitamin B12; but liver disease can disrupt this cycle, and as such alcoholics are particularly at risk from Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Other organ damage - absorption of food vitamin B12 requires an intact and functioning stomach, exocrine pancreas, and small bowel. Problems with any one of these organs makes a vitamin B12 deficiency possible, thus disease of the pancreas and disease of the Intestine will also cause problems.
- Heavy metal poisoning - Methylcobalamin is used in the body to convert methionine to homocysteine. The cysteines are used to remove toxins from the body [amongst many other roles] and bind to heavy metals, so if you have been subject to heavy metal exposure not only will you need more Vitamin B12, but you will appear to be deficient in it because it is all being used up on your behalf.
- Nutritional deprivation - vegans and vegetarians often suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency, and the elderly whose diet is poor in the foods which contain this essential vitamin. If you glance at the foods below which contain Vitamin B12 you will see that there are only a limited number of foods that contain the Vitamin and none of them are eaten by vegans. The elderly often do not eat enough meat principally because they have a tendency to go for foods that are easier to digest and chew as they get older.
- Pharmaceuticals - pharmaceuticals appear to have a dreadful record of producing Vitamin B12 deficiency. The figures from the eHealthme website as of March 2014 showed there to be 769 drugs that had caused Vitamin B12 deficiency. As the list is far too long to include here this LINK takes you to the eHealthme web site where you can see the list for yourself. Please note that if this link is broken use the 'conditions' box to find the symptom, and once you are on this condition page, scroll down the page until you find 'Drugs which cause and use this link. The types of pharmaceuticals include the following [note that this list is not complete simply representative]:
- ACE inhibitors
- Acne and skin disease treatments
- Pain killers and NSAIDs
- Proton pump inhibitors used for stomach problems
- Osteoporosis treatments
- Diabetes treatments
- Calcium channel blockers
- Asthma and COPD treatments
- Gout treatments
- Insomnia treatments
- Anaemia treatments
- Beta blockers
- Antidepressants and TCAs
- Opioid analgesics
- Anti-viral drugs
- Blood thinners such as clopidogrel
- Cancer treatments
- ADHD treatments
- Antipsychotic drugs
- Thyroid disease treatments - which have a very impressive record for producing deficiency
- Smoking cessation treatments
- Obesity treatments - the following very sad little quote can be found on the eHealthme website, Alli is an obesity treatment
TSACGIV (2 years ago): IF YOU HAVE DEFFICIENCY OF VITAMIN B12 YOU CAN NOT LOSE WEIGHT. ALLI IS DANGEROUS. DO NOT USE ALLI. VITAMIN B12 IS ESSENTIAL TO YOUR BODY
- Mineral supplements - for example magnesium supplements have caused vitamin B12 deficiency and Potassium supplements can reduce absorption of vitamin B12 in some people. This effect has been reported with potassium chloride and, to a lesser extent, with potassium citrate.
- Nitrous oxide - whether used in surgery or used 'recreationally' can cause Vitamin B12 deficiency.
Nitrous oxide inactivates the cobalamin form of vitamin B12 by oxidation. Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, including sensory neuropathy, myelopathy, and encephalopathy, can occur within days or weeks of exposure to nitrous oxide anesthesia in people with subclinical vitamin B12 deficiency. Symptoms are treated with high doses of vitamin B12, but recovery can be slow and incomplete. People with normal vitamin B12 levels have sufficient vitamin B12 stores to make the effects of nitrous oxide insignificant, unless exposure is repeated and prolonged (such as recreational use). Vitamin B12 levels should be checked in people with risk factors for vitamin B12 deficiency prior to using nitrous oxide anesthesia. Chronic nitrous oxide B12 poisoning (usually from use of nitrous oxide as a recreational drug), however, may result in B12 functional deficiency even with normal measured blood levels of B12
- Vitamin supplements - which by producing an imbalance in one vitamin cause deficiencies in other vitamins. Folic acid, particularly in large doses, can mask vitamin B12 deficiency by completely correcting hematological abnormalities. In vitamin B12 deficiency, folic acid can produce complete resolution of the characteristic megaloblastic anaemia, while allowing potentially irreversible neurological damage (from continued inactivity of methylmalonyl mutase) to progress.
The hydrosoluble vitamins are a group of organic substances that are required by humans in small amounts to prevent disorders of metabolism. Significant progress has been made in our understanding of the biochemical, physiologic and nutritional aspects of the water-soluble vitamins. Deficiency of these particular vitamins, most commonly due to inadequate nutrition, can result in disorders of the nervous system. Many of these disorders have been successfully prevented in developed countries; however, they are still common in developing countries. Of the hydrosoluble vitamins, the nervous system depends the most on vitamins B and C (ascorbic acid) for proper functioning. The B group vitamins include thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin or niacinamide (vitamin B3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine or pyridoxal (vitamin B6) and cobalamin (vitamin B12). Clinical findings depend upon the deficiency of the underlying vitamin; generally, deficiency symptoms are seen from a combination rather than an isolated vitamin deficiency. True hereditary metabolic disorders and serious deficiency-associated diseases are rare and in general limited to particular geographic regions and high-risk groups. Their recognition is truly important as that determines the appropriate therapeutic management. The general availability of vitamins to practically everyone and several national health programs have saved many lives and prevented complications. However, there has been some apprehension for several decades about how harmless generous dosages of these vitamins are. Overt overdosages can cause vitamin toxicity affecting various body systems including the nervous system. Systemically, vitamin toxicity is associated with nonspecific symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and skin rash which are common with any acute or chronic vitamin overdose. PMID: 24365359
it is worth noting that this imbalance can affect the fetus of a mother taking supplements and lead to brain damage
An exclusively breastfed 5-month-old Italian male infant, who was born after a normal full-term pregnancy to a vegan mother who was apparently daily treated with a multivitamin oral preparation during the second and third trimester, was hospitalised because of poor weight gain, feeding difficulties, severe pallor, muscle hypotonia and somnolence. Upon admission, his weight, length and head circumference were below the third percentile, he had an enlarged liver and spleen, and showed a significant delay in developmental milestones and communicative reactions. Magnetic resonance imaging of the brain showed mild dilatation of the lateral ventricles with diffuse delayed myelination. The child was diagnosed as having vitamin B12 and iron deficiency due to nutritional inadequacy … his development was still retarded seven months after the start of therapy. PMID: 22726312
Sources of Vitamin B12
I have included an extremely detailed list of the food sources of Vitamin B12 obtained from the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 26 Software v.1.3.1. The very unfortunate thing about their lists is that they contain a huge amount of duplication, so I have provided it in the Science section under the heading Vitamin B12 food sources. In summary, however, what you should be able to see is that Vitamin B12 is obtained from
- Fish and shellfish - clams, oysters, mussels, octopus, caviar, mackerel, kippers and herring, whelk, salmon and smoked salmon, fish roe, crab, tuna, sardines, whelks
- Offal - liver, kidneys, brains, pancreas, giblets, heart, liver sausage, liver pate, tongue
- Game - such as rabbit, deer, caribou, even squirrels!
- Eggs - whole eggs
and to a lesser extent
- Red meat - lamb, beef and pork as well as emu and ostrich
- White meat and poultry - such as chicken and turkey
For any vegan or even vegetarian this list makes very depressing reading. Vegans in particular are at great risk of being Vitamin B12 deficient with all this entails. However help is at hand in the form of
- Vegemite and Marmite - both of which contain small but important amounts of Vitamin B12 and both of which are vegetarian/vegan
- Ovaltine - which appears to contain reasonable quantities of vitamin B12 but does contain eggs, so may be unacceptable to vegans
- Kombucha tea - see below. A Japanese fermented black tea known as Batabata-cha has also been found to contain biologically active B12. Unlike kombucha which is made by fermenting already prepared tea, Batabata-cha is fermented while still in the tea leaf state.
Certain makers of kombucha cultured tea, list vitamin B12 as naturally present in their product. One brand purports to contain 20% of the daily value of B12 in a single bottle, making kombucha a potential "high" food source of B12. Because kombucha is produced by a symbiosis between yeast and bacteria, the possibility that kombucha contains B12 does not contradict current knowledge. But no scientific studies have yet been published confirming the fact, nor whether the B12 in kombucha is the biologically active B12.
- Anything else – well research is still ongoing to find other sources, again the following may be helpful
There are reports that certain plant foods are sources of B12; fermented foods such as tempeh and miso, as well as edible seaweed such as arame, wakame, nori, and kombu, spirulina, and certain greens, grains and legumes, have been cited as B12 sources, as has rainwater. According to Mangels et al., tiny amounts have been found in barley malt syrup, shiitake mushrooms, parsley and sourdough bread, but these products may be sources of inactive B12
This is entirely anecdotal. When I was a child, during the raw Winter months, my Mum used to pack us off to school some mornings with toast and 'dripping' with Marmite. These days this would be considered 'bad'. But Marmite contains Vitamin B12 and Dripping [meat fat plus jelly from the joint of meat] contains Vitamin D - a hard to obtain vitamin during the winter when sun levels are low and children do not tend to play out in the garden so much.
Mums know best.
How it works
The observations that cover hallucinations visions etc are due the fact that deficiency causes Brain damage.
There are also a number of observations on the healing effects of the right foods.
References and further reading
- Handb Clin Neurol. 2014;120:891-914. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-7020-4087-0.00059-0. Hydrosoluble vitamins. Chawla J, Kvarnberg D.
Am Fam Physician. 1982 Jul;26(1):48, 50, 55. Cyanocobalamin and cyanide toxicity. Sawyer DR PMID: 7090966
BMC Pediatr. 2012 Jun 24;12:85. doi: 10.1186/1471-2431-12-85. Severe vitamin B12 deficiency in an exclusively breastfed 5-month-old Italian infant born to a mother receiving multivitamin supplementation during pregnancy. Guez S, Chiarelli G, Menni F, Salera S, Principi N, Esposito S.
Isr Med Assoc J. 2001 Sep;3(9):701-3. Cobalamin-responsive psychosis as the sole manifestation of vitamin B12 deficiency. Masalha R, Chudakov B, Muhamad M, Rudoy I, Volkov I, Wirguin I. PMID: 11574992
Nutrition. 1991 Sep-Oct;7(5):323-7; discussion 328. Treatment of "pernicious anaemia of pregnancy" and "tropical anaemia" with special reference to yeast extract as a curative agent. 1931. Wills L PMID: 1804466
THE ACTION OF MARMITE IN NUTRITIONAL MEGALOBLASTIC ANAEMIA. VINKE B. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 1964 Nov;58:503-9. PMID: 14217008
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