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Saturday, February 11, 2017

VITAMIN B12: More Important Than You Realize

I'm anti-pill.  I have family members and friends who seem to thrive on taking a whole mess of vitamin pills.  My common sense tells me that I get the vitamins I need just by maintaining a balanced diet.  I suspect people who take vitamin pills waste most of the ingredients in their urine, for which I  then worry that one's kidneys and liver might be negatively impacted.

Sure, omega-3 fatty acids provide a wide array of health benefits, and I seriously considered this additive, especially when a few close friends in Japan who were world experts in this general field indicated they took EPA and DHA pills, even though they already consumed above average quantities of oily fish.  However, here at 15 Craigside, during the past 2.5 years I've had more than double the poke (Hawaiian marinated fish, usually tuna) of my previous life, and regularly splurge on very expensive fatty blue-fin tuna belly for chu-toro and o-toro, and they can cost up to $50/pound.
When I first joined the sugar industry in 1962 I was invited to dinner by a neighbor, who was serving fried ahi (yellow-fin tuna).  He asked me what portion of the fish I wanted.  I was in somewhat of a perverse mood, and picked the belly (which has a lot of large bones and can be filamentous, something I really did not like).  There was a hushed awe in the room, as I (a city-slicker) had unexpectedly selected what to the community was the prized section.  This community more than half a century ago already knew about the benefits of fatty fish (see diagram above).

Okay, what has all this to do with Vitamin B12?  The healthiest source of B12 is from seafood, also found in liver (like foie gras) and dairy products.  Vegetables do not produce B12, but, interestingly enough, kelp (seaweed) and sea lettuce (from which comes nori) do.  Thus, sushi with nori covering the vinegared rice topped with o-toro, is one of the ultimate treats for your body.  But keep in mind that, just like plants, your body does not produce any B12, a necessary mineral to keep yourself healthy.

India has more vegetarians than any other country, and 80% of adults there are B12 deficient.  Good reason, then, then that 70% of people in India suffer from insomnia, but this article does not even mention B12.  The problem, it says, is internet addiction!

Mind you, there are eight B vitamins:
  • B1:  thiamin
  • B2:  riboflavin
  • B3:  niacin
  • B5:  pantothenic acid
  • B6:  pyridoxine
  • B7:  biotin
  • B9:  folic acid
  • B12:  cobalamin
They are all important, and especially so for people who drink in moderation, and more so for those who imbibe more.  What happens is that the liver uses nutrients to metabolize alcohol, and B vitamins in particular are depleted.  One result could be insomnia.  Vitamin B4 is no longer considered to be a true vitamin and B8 is inositol, deemed unnecessary for a human.  B100 is a complex of the useful ones.

So what's the big deal about B12:
  • It is the most prominent of the B-complex vitamins, and is also known as cobalamin, cobryamide, cobinamide and cobamide, mostly because of the presence of cobalt.
  • Among its roles is in the conversion on carbohydrates to glucose, and fatty acids into energy.
  • Benefits:
    • Protects against Alzheimer's disease and memory loss.
    • Helps avoid depression
    • Protects against some cancers.
    • Reduces the risk of anemia.
    • Minimizes heart attacks.
    • Optimizes adrenal hormone production.
    • Boosts immunity.
    • Makes you more awake.
  • However, conversely, B12 helps seniors get a better night sleep.  Why is this so?  Seniors are less efficient at utilizing B12.  It is estimated that one-fourth of those over 60 has a B12 deficiency.  This need is compounded if you drink alcohol.
  • B12 is particularly key for females, as it helps folic acid regulate the formation of blood cells and promotes normal nerve growth by maintaining fatty sheathes, important for reproduction.
  • If you take Metformin for diabetes, check your B12 level, for calcium absorption is affected, reducing B12 effectiveness.  
    • A low B12 score can also mean something like the presence of tapeworm in your bowels.
    • A high level could mean something wrong with your liver, or this problem can occur for people with diabetes or are obese.
In any case, you can't really self-diagnose B12 deficiency.  Check with a doctor.  There are good and better B12 products.  It seems that methyl B12 is most recommended.  There are pills and patches.

Incredibly, Americans spend $14 billion/year on vitamins and supplements.  Around 40% of adults take them.  Pill-taking might have started in the mid-70's when Linus Pauling recommended 3,000 milligrams of vitamin C daily to prevent colds and general degeneration.  This was 50 times the recommended norm.  So people simplified the process by taking a pill for everything.  Not necessarily good, because multivitamins may be associated with an increased risk of death, especially in older women.  They also negatively interact with other drugs.  In general, too much can hurt you more than help.

Thus, don't just jump into anything this blog site recommends.  Talk to your doctor first.  Purposeful solutions generally work more efficiently than a universal cure.  I appear to be just the individual who could be aided by vitamin B12.  I'll talk to my personal physician on my next visit.


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Master Sgp said...
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