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The risk for pernicious anemia from vitamin B12 deficiency is highest among the elderly, but a significant number of people begin to notice the first symptoms in their 30s, contrary to popular belief. Listed below are some common symptoms of pernicious anemia and explanations regarding your risk for developing pernicious anemia in middle age.
What is pernicious anemia?
Pernicious anemia is the final stage of vitamin B12 deficiency. Pernicious anemia used to be fatal until scientists figured out that death could be easily prevented by feeding patients high concentrations of Vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 deficiency causes many debilitating health problems, including chronic fatigue, lethargy, weakness, memory loss and neurological and psychiatric problems – long before pernicious anemia sets in. These symptoms can be quite misleading, leading to incorrect diagnoses.
Autoimmune disease and immune dysregulation (unregulated immune response)
Male and female infertility
These diseases produce signs and symptoms that also occur with vitamin B12 deficiency – but are rarely diagnosed as such!
Pernicious anemia risk categories
The following groups are at greatest risk for vitamin B12 deficiency-pernicious anemia:
Anybody with a family history for autoimmune disorders or pernicious anemia
Vegetarians and vegans
People aged 60 or over
GERD patients using PPIs or acid suppressing drugs
Diabetics using drugs like metformin
Patients of Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac or IBS
Women with a history of infertility and miscarriage
Vegetarians and Vegans take note: Vitamin B12 is found ONLY in animal products! To prevent pernicious anemia, it is absolutely essential that you supplement with high doses of vitamin B12.
Treating pernicious anemia
If you think you might have a vitamin B12 deficiency or pernicious anemia, you should pursue blood testing immediately. If you are vitamin B12 deficient, then the next step would be to identify the source of the deficiency.
Once the source of vitamin B12 deficiency is identified, you can then begin vitamin B12 supplementation. The many, long-term or permanent vitamin B12 supplementation is required in order to prevent a relapse of symptoms.
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For years, vitamin B12 has been the staple energy vitamin for stars such as Madonna, Justin Timberlake, and Prince. Now, B12 vitamins are part of Glee star Lea Michele’s regimen against vitamin B12 deficiency. Find out why celebrities such as Lea Michele rely on B12 supplements for added stamina, strength, and mental focus.
The Glee star’s secret to weight loss
How does Lea Michele, who plays the bossy, competitive, (and sometimes infuriating) Rachel on Glee keep her figure? Recently, she confessed to following a strictly macrobiotic vegan diet, composed of mostly vegetables, grains, and beans. By cutting out meat, chicken, and dairy products from her diet, Lea has managed to lose ten pounds since she first started filming on the set.
Lea admits to also eating a few servings of fish per week, in order to avoid getting vitamin B12 deficiency. Since Vitamin B12 occurs only in animal-based foods, such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and milk, supplementing with extra vitamin B12 is crucial for avoiding low B12 blood levels. How does she justify introducing a non-vegan source into her vegan diet? Apparently, macrobiotic veganism makes special allowances for seafood. Lea Michele understands that a diet low in vitamin B12 is a diet that leads to B12 deficiency symptoms.
People who deplete their stores of vitamin B12 encounter symptoms such as extreme fatigue, muscular weakness, depression, diminished coordination, memory loss, and frequent numbness or tingling sensations (pins and needles) in their hands, arms, legs, and feet. Untreated, vitamin B12 deficiency may escalate into severe memory loss, neurological damage, osteoporosis, and increased risk for heart attack, and stroke.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can start with a few symptoms like tiredness and slight tingling or numbness in hands and feet; ignore the symptoms and low B12 levels could escalate into severe nerve damage, disease or death.
What are the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency?
Below is a list of some of the most common side effects which may arise from insufficient stores of vitamin B12.
(Please note that the severity of the symptoms may vary according to the stage of B12 deficiency.)
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble nutrient. Therefore, your body is only able to store it for a short time. Vitamin B12 has many important functions in your body.
Vitamin B12 is essential for producing plenty of healthy red blood cells and for synthesizing DNA. A lack of B12 severely reduces your body’s ability to make sufficient red blood cells for carrying oxygen throughout your body.
Pernicious anemiais a life-threatening condition that is often the cause of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Your nervous system is dependent on vitamin B12, which enhances communication between the brain and your many nerve sensors, such as those in your fingertips, feet and mouth. This explains why sufferers of B12 deficiency notice a sensation similar to wearing gloves throughout the day; others report that their food tastes unusual, another clue that the body’s neurons are not operating correctly.
A deficiency of vitamin B12 compromises your nervous system and could result in permanent neurological damage.
Researchers have found a direct link between vitamin B12 deficiency and brain atrophy among the elderly. In one study which appeared in the Journal of Nutrition, senior citizens who had the highest levels of B12 experienced healthier cognitive functioning skills.
Vitamin B12 helps your body monitor already healthy homocysteine levels, a factor in heart health.
What diseases are associated with B12 deficiency?
There are many illnesses which occur when B12 levels are low; some conditions may be caused by vitamin B12 deficiency, while others are closely correlated. Below are some common illnesses associated with B12 deficiency, including many which most people don’t realize are affected by vitamin B12 levels.
Alzheimer’s disease, brain deterioration, cognitive decline, memory loss and other forms of dementia
Neurological diseases such as Multiple sclerosis (MS)
Cardiovascular disease, caused by high homocysteine levels
Mental illness, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and psychosis
Autism spectrum disorder
Autoimmune diseases, such as AIDS and pernicious anemia
According to aTufts University study, 40 percent of people between the ages of 26 and 83 have low to medium-low B12 levels, indicating a deficiency severe enough to cause neurological disorder symptoms, while 9 percent are depleted enough to the point of irreversible neurological damage and life-threatening symptoms. Approximately 16 percent are close to becoming vitamin B12 deficient.
Why is vitamin B12 deficiency overlooked?
Only a blood test can properly determine if somebody is suffering from B12 deficiency, and most physicians don’t include a B12 screening with yearly check-ups. Also, many of the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency are similar to common health disorders, such as diabetes, chronic depression and fatigue.
How can you get enough B12?
Vitamin B12 is found in many high protein foods. Excellent sources of B12 are:
Lean beef cuts, such as chuck and sirloin
Fish, particularly salmon, tuna and halibut
Shellfish, including crab meat, mussels, clams and oysters
Dairy products, such as swiss cheese, yogurt, milk and cottage cheese
Vegans are at a high risk for developing vitamin B12 deficiency, as their diet specifically excludes food items which provide vitamin B12. Other people who are at risk of getting B12 deficiency are patients of weight loss surgery, diabetics on metformin, individuals with gastrointestinal disease, people who lackintrinsic factorand anybody taking prescription heartburn medication.
The only way to prevent becoming deficient in vitamin B12 is by constantly replenishing your body with B12-rich nutrients.
Alternatively, patients diagnosed with vitamin B12 deficiency are encouraged to take vitamin B12 supplements, such as sublingual B12 tablets, B12 shots, or over-the-counter (OTC) vitamin B12.
Find more information on preventing vitamin B12 deficiency:
We’ve all heard of overeaters binging themselves into a state of depression- a vicious circle which is difficult to get out of. But eating for happiness?
Vitamin B-12 deficiency is linked with depression
Vitamin B12 is essential for many aspects of brain development, such as myelination (the production of a protective layer around the brain) and the distributing of neurotransmitters to and from the brain. So it comes as no surprise that the Mayo Clinic suggests eating foods rich in vitamin B-12 as a means of preventing the onset of clinical depression.
“Eat to live, don’t live to eat.”
That’sa great motto if you happen to be an android. The fact is, eating is a sensual experience which we were meant to enjoy. (Why else would we have taste buds?) The key to good nutrition is finding foods you love that will love you right back.
Here are some yummy appetizers and entrées which are naturally high in vitamin B-12:
Fish tacos- Made popular by Rubio’s, the fish tacos is a tasty fusion of Cal-Mex and seafood cuisine. Take a soft flour tortilla, add some fiery mango salsa, a dab of sour cream and a grilled fish fillet (hint: salmon is high in B-12). It’s a wrap!
Are you a Sushi lover? Then you’re going to love this- sushi and sashimi recipes typically include such high-in-B12 ingredients as roe (fish eggs), octopus, crab, shrimp, and mackerel. Pass the soy sauce!
New England clam chowder- just the name elicits images of salty sea breezes, sailboats and clam bakes. Don’t have any recipes handy? Here is a list of variations on this classic soup recipe.
Lean cuts of lamb are high in vitamin B-12 and a popular staple of many Middle Eastern cuisines. Here is a flavorful Lamb Moussaka recipe, as featured in epicurious.
Tuna casserole is one of America’s fave comfort foods and it’s simple to make- combine canned tuna, cooked broad noodles, and a can of concentrated mushroom soup. Top it with some fried onions and pop it in the oven for 30 minutes. Tuna is high in B-12 and omega-3 fatty acids.
Hamburgers barbecued with low-fat ground beef chuck are a great source of vitamin B-12. Serve it up on whole-grain buns with a side of oven roasted root veggies for a healthy upgrade from the typical artery-clogging burgers ‘n fries.
Out of the teens who received services, 59.8% were diagnosed with attention-deficit /hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD); others who were receiving aid were those categorized with some type of defiant conduct behavioral disorder.
Teens who suffered from an anxiety or eating disorder were least likely to have been in any sort of behavioral program- only 20%.
Hispanics and blacks youths who suffered anxiety were less likely to be in treatment than Caucasians.
Girls were more likely than boys to receive therapy for anxiety disorder; boys were more likely to be receiving treatment for AD/HD.
Parents, be on the lookout for depression in your teen; here are 10 warning signs, as reported by Fox News:
Passivity, less inclined to cry when something is troubling her/him
Sudden detachment from activities or interests that were previously enjoyable
Vocalizing feelings which indicate lack of self-worth
Interruption of sleeping habits, like oversleeping
Loss of appetite
Misperception, likeliness to be confused by more things than usual
It might seem like following a healthy diet is less of a priority when faced with the symptoms of depression, but many doctors have found that deficiencies such as low vitamin b12 may contribute to depression; in some cases vitamin b12 deficiency may be the sole reason for the sudden change in behavior.
B12 deficiency is often misdiagnosed as clinical depression.
The Mayo Clinic confirms a correlation between b12 deficiency and symptoms of depression. Warning signs of vitamin b12 deficiency include chronic fatigue, dizziness, anxiety, increased violent tendencies, sleep disturbances and loss of appetite. Sound familiar? Many are the same symptoms above-mentioned for clinical depression.
A blood test is required to determine whether vitamin b12 deficiency is present; if you are tested positive then your physician will recommend supplementation, which may be administered as an injection, sublingual tablet, or spray.
The Japanese study proves that women who eat foods enriched vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and folate are less likely to suffer heart attack or die of a stroke. Japanese men who eat B-rich foods are less likely to suffer heart failure.
These findings confirm similar studies which have been conducted in the US and Europe, all of which came to the same conclusion; B vitamins such as B12, B6 and folate are essential for cardiovascular health.
Through the Japan Collaborative Cohort (JACC) Study, a survey which collected data on the dietary habits of over 85,000 Japanese between the ages of 40 and 79, scientists were able to gain information on a correlation between the amount of B vitamin intake and likeliness of mortality from heart disease and stroke. Out of the 85,000 men and women studied, 986 died from stroke, 424 perished from heart attack and over 2,000 died from a variety of heart-related illnesses – all in a 14-year time frame.
Scientists grouped test subjects into five categories, varying in relation to B6, B12 and folate intake. Of the female test subjects who ate the lowest amounts of B6, B12 and folate, more were likely to die of stroke or heart attack than those who ate a moderate amount of B vitamins. Similarly, men who consumed the least B vitamins were more likely to die from cardiovascular illness than others. Of the test subjects who reported eating a steady diet of B6, B12 and folate, fewer suffered mortalities related to stroke or heart disease than counterparts from any of the other groups.
Scientists believe that B vitamins lower homocysteine levels, an amino acid which many doctors believe increase one’s risk of suffering from heart disease and stroke. Vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid prevent the accumulation of homocysteine. Eating whole grains, leafy vegetables, legumes and fish are excellent ways to get B vitamins. However, many suffer from an inability to completely digest B12, resulting in B12 deficiency. Symptoms include fatigue, memory loss and numbness or tingling in the extremities.
A new study released by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) warns diabetics who take metformin to get their blood checked regularly for vitamin deficiencies, particularly B12.
Sold under the brand name of Glucophage, metformin is often prescribed to patients who suffer from type 2 diabetes. Metformin increases the body’s receptiveness to insulin while, at the same time, significantly decreasing the amount of glucose secreted by the liver; additionally, it also aids in lowering bad cholesterol. Scientists, however, have reason to believe that metformin may prevent the body from efficiently absorbing B12, a vitamin which is essential for maintaining a healthy nervous system and red blood cell production. According to recent research, patients who take metformin are 10% – 30% more likely to have difficulty utilizing B12. Health experts urge anybody taking the medication over a long period of time to have their B12 levels tested routinely.
B12 deficiency is often misdiagnosed, as its symptoms are similar to those of many other illnesses.
Vitamin B12’s position in the upkeep of one’s health is central. Among many of the aspects of health-maintenance B12 helps to control, minimize and flush the levels of an extremely toxic by-product of hormonal metabolism named homocysteine. Recent research has uncovered that a dangerous condition of elevated homocysteine levels can result from even minor B12 depletion. Individuals most at risk for having elevated levels of homocysteine are those who are most in need of vitamin B12 supplementation – vegetarians, individuals nearing middle-age, individuals suffering from poor absorption and unhealthy lifestyles. For all these groups, homocysteine levels soar and remain undisturbed as the body is unable to control and lessen its amounts.
Homocysteine appears to be a nerve and vessel toxin, promoting mortality, cardiovascular disease (CVD), stroke, Alzheimer’s Disease, birth defects, recurrent pregnancy loss, neural tube defects, eye disorders, increased fractures in elderly persons and nerve damage. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) includes Ischemic heart disease (IHD/heart attack), coronary artery disease (CAD/ plaque obstruction of the coronary arteries to the heart), and stroke. An elevated level of blood serum homocysteine is a powerful risk factor for all these issues
Homocysteine auto-oxidizes and reacts with reactive oxygen intermediates and damage endothelial cells (which are extremely important for protection of the blood vessel) and result in a higher risk of forming a thrombus (blood clot). Although homocysteine does not affect bone density, it appears to affects collagen by interfering with the cross-linking between the collagen fibers and the tissues they reinforce. The damage inflicted on these connective tissues results in increased cases of fracture, bone damage and importantly atherosclerosis which is specifically linked to high homocysteine levels.
Diseases which are associated with elevated homocysteine levels are long-term emergent problems. In other words these illnesses occur due prolonged exposure to elevated homocysteine which damages the tissues through its toxicity. In fact, elevated homocysteine levels are a part of aging, whether due to poor absorption in the GI or other reasons. As people are now living longer, the elevated homocysteine has more time to do its damage to the body, thus a spike is noted in illnesses associated with homocysteine levels and aging. Logically everyone should eventually attempt to control their homocysteine levels through B12 supplementation if they wish to lessen the risk of these illnesses
How is homocysteine produced in the body?
Methionine is an essential amino acid involved in hormonal metabolism which is obtained exclusively from ingested protein. In the processes of hormonal metabolism some methionine is turned into homocysteine. The body converts much of the homocysteine back into methionine through an intricate process involving the vitamin B12. If the individual is B12-deficient, homocysteine levels will begin to increase as the reaction of the compounds cannot take place. There are several studies discussing the benefits of B12 supplementation on homocysteine levels and health, and following are several excerpts from these studies.
Medically established normal serum levels of homocysteine range from 2.2 to 13.2 µmol/l. The levels of homocysteine in a typical Western population are around 12 µmol/l. Although this is considered to be within the “normal” range, it is not necessarily healthy.
The analysis of the Oxford Vegetarian Study reported in 2002 showed that overall mortality was the same between vegetarians and non-vegetarians. But vegetarians had 2.2 times the death rate from mental and neurological diseases as non-vegetarians.
The vegetarians had higher homocysteine and lower B12 levels leading to more neurological damage and problems.
Appleby PN, Key TJ, Thorogood M, Burr ML, Mann J. Mortality in British vegetarians. Public Health Nutr. 2002 Feb;5(1):29-36.
11 prospective studies of IHD and 8 of stroke tried to examine and anaylize the effects on health if homocysteine levels were lowered by 25%. The studies involved 9,025 people.
A 25% lower homocysteine level reduced the risk of IHD by 11%, and the risk of stroke by 19%.
In 16 prospective studies of IHD, a 5 µmol/l increase in homocysteine increased the risk of contracting IHD by 23%.
In 8 prospective studies on strokes, a 5 µmol/l increase in homocysteine increased risk of a stroke by 42%.
Homocysteine is better controlled through adequate level of B12, B6 and folate (also known as folic acid). Since vegetarian diets are typically high in folate, the elevated homocysteine levels are normally due to a low B12 intake which, as studies have shown, cannot be viably obtained from ingestion of plant-life. The greater effect of elevated homocysteine on stroke compared to heart disease could explain why vegetarians have not been shown to have lower rates of death from stroke, while they do have lower rates of death from heart disease.
The British Medical Journal published an analysis of 12 studies on the effectiveness of reducing homocysteine levels with folic acid and vitamin B12. They concluded that folic acid in the range of 500-5,000 µg/day reduced homocysteine by 25%, and that B12 supplements (average intake of 500 µg/day) reduced it a further 7%. An addition of B6 did not show any further homocysteine level reduction.
The B12 vitamin has an extremely intricate relationship with the body’s chemical balances and thus its healthy function. There are a number of ways in which it protects and supports a variety of chemical interactions necessary for a normal quality of living and even survival. This short guide will introduce you to the basics of B12 chemical functions.
1) Vitamin B12 Regenerates Folic Acid
Without B12, folic acid (B9) becomes trapped in the body in a metabolically useless form. Folic acid is a necessary component in cell division and formation of new cells.
2) Healthy Red Blood Cells Depend on Vitamin B12 Driven Synthesis of DNA. Without usable B12 in the system, the DNA synthesis begins to shut down, resulting in pernicious/megaloblastic anemia. Symptoms of this illness include fatigue, Low energy levels, nausea and diarrhea, decreased appetite, weakening of the muscles, headaches, tingling sensations and a sore tongue.
3) Vitamin B12 Supports Synthesis of the Amino Acid Methionine and Amino Acid “SAM-e”
Methionine is one of the two sulfur based compounds involved in metabolic functions. It is a crucial building block of proteins necessary for a state of a healthy body. SAM-e is involved in over 100 enzymatic reactions required for normal metabolic activity.
5) Vitamin B12 Promotes Activity of Hormones and Neurotransmitters Affecting Your Mood
The hormones include dopamine, serotonin and melatonin. These particular neurotransmitters are necessary for a healthy balanced mood, emotional state and even the sleeping cycle. An imbalance in either the levels or the function of any of these can result in a depression which is likely to need medicating.
6) Vitamin B12 Helps Reduce Dangerous Levels of Homocysteine Homocysteine is a toxic amino acid (protein) associated with a number of different negative side effects in the body. High homocysteine levels can cause any of the following symptoms: tinnitus, anxiety, increased heart beat, worsening symptoms of thyroid disorders, depression and body toxicity. Individuals with high homocysteine levels are at risk for cardiovascular problems.
7) Vitamin B12 Benefits Help Prevent Irreversible Neurological Impairment Peripheral and central nervous system deterioration can occur due to a vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 deficiency has been linked to demyelination of the nerve and the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.