Sluggish? Confused? Maybe it’s the Cheeseburger.

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January 19, 2011- the Wall Street Journal just published a report on b12 deficiency and its accompanying symptoms.  Kudos to the WSJ for giving b12 deficiency the attention it deserves, as the symptoms of low b12 vitamin levels are still being misdiagnosed by physicians.

The Wall Street Journal article quotes Dr. Alan Pocinki of Washington, D.C., “B12 deficiency is much more common than the textbooks and journal articles say it is,” How right you are, doc. Over 60 years ago scientists first discovered a link between vitamin b12 deficiency and pernicious anemia, yet doctors still confuse red flag indicators such as numbness and tingling in the feet with the common side effects of type 2 diabetes. Likely they are unaware of the diabetes drug metformin-low b12 link.

The consequences of ignoring low b12 levels can be severe.  Warning signs often begin as premature hair loss, decreased appetite, dizziness and bouts of depression; untreated they escalate to chronic fatigue syndrome, anemia and short-term memory loss.  Finally, and unless given medical attention, vitamin b12 deficiency could result in irreversible neurological damage or pernicious anemia.

I’d like to take the WSJ author to task on a few issues, though, regarding her piece: first of all, what’s with the cheeseburger reference? So what if a cheeseburger contains 30% of the suggested b12 allowance? A plate of chopped liver contains 800% – more b12 than a person would need in an entire week, and it’s a lot healthier.  But I suppose that a close-up shot of freshly mashed beef liver wouldn’t have attracted the same kind of attention as a larger-than-life double-decker burger. Still, is she suggesting we all just go out and order a cheeseburger for lunch everyday in order to meet our b12 allowance?  What about stroke and heart disease? I’ll take low b12 over a heart attack any day. Not to make light of the seriousness of b12 deficiency, but let’s just keep things in perspective here.

As if that weren’t enough, she then cites Dr. Pocinki as saying that his “very lean” patients often suffer from b12 deficiency, as they lack the fatty tissues necessary to properly store b12 in their system.  Well, who says you have to store it? That’s what eating is for. You eat, your body gets the vitamins it needs and then…you eat again tomorrow.  No folks, if you aren’t getting enough vitamin b12 from your foods, and some of you who are on a vegan diet, take acid-blocking medicines and metformin or simply do not produce enough stomach acids aren’t getting your daily allowance of b12, then your only alternative is to supplement every day. Please don’t jump on the cheeseburger bandwagon.  Have a heart.