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icoVitamin B12: Everything You Need to Know About It, Myths and Deficiency Risks

Are your B12 levels right?

A deficiency might cause a wide range of health implications, such as anemia and nervous system damage. Despite being needed in small dosages, it has an immense importance to the body and most people are unaware of the fact that they’re suffering from a deficiency that should be promptly treated.

Did you know that vitamin B12 is not produced by animals or plants? Where does it come from then? Here are a few facts you may have not known about B12.


What is vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin belonging to the B vitamins. It has a large and complex structure that contains the cobalt element giving it its name, cobalamin. It plays important roles in the human body: in the red blood cells production, important for nervous system functioning, essential for constructing the DNA and cell division and is part of the metabolism and energy production processes. Unlike other water-soluble vitamins, our body knows how to store it in the liver and other tissues, which is why the recommended daily dosage is relatively small and any excess is discharged through the urine. Despite the fact we need it in small dosages, it has an immense importance to our health!


A few interesting facts about vitamin B12

Animals and plants are unable to create vitamin B12, it’s only produced by insects. Since we know the main source for vitamin B12 for people is in animal-based foods, mostly meat, it begs the question: how does it make its way to animals if they can’t produce it? There are a few ways:

  • For some animals, the bacterium in their intestines produces vitamin B12 and they absorb it directly.
  • Predators feed off other animals, which are source of vitamin B12.
  • As for farm animals in the food industry, thigs are a bit different. In most cases they’re supplemented in their food mixture.

People’s intestinal bacterium also produce vitamin B12, but in a location that hardly allows us to absorb it (small intestine) so they cannot provide an efficient enough source for us, and we still need to get it via food.


Vitamin B12 courses in food

The main source of vitamin B12 is animal-based foods: beef, liver, fish (salmon and tuna), chicken, eggs and dairy products. The last to contain a relatively low dosage of vitamin B12.


Are there plant-based sources for vitamin B12?

There’s a family of plants called duckweed, including water plants that live in lakes and reservoirs. Some of these plants’ natural microbes contain endophytes microbes. These are in fact bacteria that live in symbiosis with pants and are inside their tissues, for instance their roots or leaves. These unique plants contain vitamin B12 in its human available derivative.

For instance, the mankai water plant belongs to this family and can be eaten. It contains biologically available for absorption vitamin B12 sourced for the same bacterium that are the plant’s natural microbes and is not produced by the plant itself.

Mankai isn’t available for consumers like other vegetables, its sold frozen and can be found in some nature shops for a high cost.

Additional sources for plant-based vitamin B12:

Tempe is a dish made from fermented soybeans and could be a source for vitamin B12, according to the types of bacteria used to make it.

Dried shitake mushrooms and edible seaweeds, such as Nuri and dried green seaweeds, can contain small amounts of the vitamin, but cannot be relied on as an exclusive source.

Functional foods – are processed foods that are added various nutritional components, such as vitamins. For instance, plant-based diary alternatives and enriched cereals. Beer yeasts that are a byproduct of the beer industry contain B vitamins but not B12, and are sometimes having this vitamin artificially added to them. These are not natural dietary sources but rather enriched ones.


Breaking some vitamin B12 myths

We should distinguish active and digestible B12 from that which is inactive and doesn’t digest, called “pseudo vitamin B12.” One of the most common mistakes, especially among vegans looking for plant-based sources for vitamin B12 as an alternative, is regarding certain foods as quality B12 sources, which often turns out to be a mistake. We’re here to finetune these cases.

It’s important to understand that big part of the research done on various kinds of “superfoods” were done in labs, with cultures or animal models. Very few of them were clinically tried on people.

Yes, there are foods that contain a considerable amount of the vitamin and are not animal-based, but in derivatives that the body doesn’t recognize and therefore aren’t a good source for this vitamin for us, which is the root of this mistake.

Take spirulina for example, which most people regard as a nutritional source for B12. Spirulina is a type of cyanobacteria and not a seaweed, as most people think, and it contains considerable amounts of pseudo vitamin B12, which is in fact a vitamin B12 that biologically inactive in people. This is why it cannot serve as an effective source and moreover, pseudo vitamin B12 damages the efficiency of the real B12, especially when consumed alongside B12 supplements or foods that contain the active form.


B12 deficiency can derive from absorption issues rather than dietary lacks

The vitamin’s absorption in the body has many stages and depends on many factors, among them: the level of stomach acidity, various discharges, enzyme activity and one vital factor called intrinsic factor (IF). This is a protein that is produced and secreted in the stomach and helps absorb the vitamin at the last part of the small intestine. The amount of vitamin that can be absorbed in the body is limited and depends on the IF protein and the variety of conditions that allow the for all the stages. Since B12 deficiency also has to do with the state of your digestive system, on all its parts, and not necessarily a dietary deficiency.

For example, a state of under acidity in the stomach, meaning that the stomach acidity is too low (PH is higher than usual), might affect the action of certain enzymes and might disrupt the absorption process. Under acidity in the stomach is typical in older people and the elderly or in people taking stomach acidity lowering medications (PPI). There are also additional medications that might damage the vitamin absorption, such as diabetes medication.

The deficit can also be caused by a failure to produce the intrinsic factor crucial in the absorption process, which is mostly caused by an autoimmune process.


Who’s at risk?

Vegetarians and especially vegans are in a higher risk of developing a vitamin B12 deficiency and should make sure to enrich their diet, and in many cases take vitamin B12 supplements for deficiency and anemia.

Why are vegetarians whose diet consist of dairy products and eggs may also suffer from a deficiency? this derives from the fact that dairy products and eggs, compared to other animal-based products, aren’t a successful and exclusive source.

Other populations at risk are people who underwent bariatric surgery or such that suffer from various digestive system issues. They might suffer from absorption issues and are in need of supplements or muscle injections, as per doctor’s recommendations.

People over 60 or taking prescription medication might also follow up on their vitamin levels and maintain them.

Notice! In case you’re taking vitamin B12 supplements, please stoop taking them at least 5 days before the blood test. Taking a supplement close to the blood test might screen deficiencies and show results that don’t reflect the actual condition.


Vitamin 12 deficiency and anemia

Vitamin B12 takes part the production of red blood cells and its deficiency may lead to anemia. Folic acid is also essential in this process and a vitamin B12 deficiency often entails a folic acid deficiency. a deficiency in one of these, or both, could lead to anemia due to the red cell production damage.


Typical symptoms for deficiency

The symptoms develop gradually and are not always immediately identified. When there’s a severe vitamin B12 deficiency there could be symptoms that resemble anemia, such as fatigue, dizziness, elevated heartrate or lack of appetite. When the levels are low for long, the following symptoms can also appear: tingling in the extremities, muscle weakness, restlessness, concentration issue and emotional changes.


Why shouldn’t you ignore it? Deficiency risks

Untreated vitamin B12 deficiency could lead to damage in various bodily systems, and in time – if not properly treated – could entail health issues in various systems. Vitamin B12 helps produce myeline, which is the cell nerve’s cover. This is why this vitamin’s deficiency might lead to nerval conduction and signal damage which could be expressed as muscle weakness, tingling in the legs or ataxia. It also takes part in the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that effects mood, which is why a deficiency can lead to a down. Cognitive damage, lower concentration abilities and memory issue can also be a result of a lingering state of deficiency.

It's very important during pregnancy and therefore should be controlled and a deficiency is to be avoided, linked to higher risk of miscarriages and birth defects.

Another issue, which not everyone might be aware of, is the link between vitamin B12 and blood vessels. It’s important for the conversion of a component called homocysteine into methionine. When this process in damaged, the homocysteine levels increase, which increase over coagulation and raises the risk fo cardiovascular diseases.



A recommended B12 supplement

There are two main derivatives in supplements:

  • Cyanocobalamin vitamin B12

This is the synthetic and more common form in supplements, the derivative is made out of vitamin B12 bound to cyanide (CN). This form should be broken down, absorbed and then converted to its active form, a process that takes place in the liver.


  • Methylcobalamin vitamin B12

This is the natural and active form of vitamin B12, bound to methyl (CH3). The advantage of this form is that it doesn’t need additional conversion in the body.

Advantage of sublingual absorption:

The sublingual tablets B12 supplement has an advantage over swallowing ones, especially for those who suffer from absorption issues. This administration allows the vitamin to be absorbed directly into the blood stream, from the blood vessels under the tongue, and bypasses the regular digestive system absorption route.

There’s an advantage to tablets that take a few minutes to dissolve under the tongue, allowing for a big enough timeframe to absorb it through the blood vessels, compared to the liquid supplements, which are mostly swallowed after minutes.


To summarize – here’s what’s important to remember

Make sure to consume enough B12 through your diet and make sure to keep it controlled, especially for those who are at risk, and use quality dietary supplements with enhanced absorption, when needed.

Remember, stop taking supplements a few days before performing a blood test and be attentive of your bodies, which can sometimes tell us we’re missing something.

In case of B12, certain symptoms might signal a significant and lingering deficiency, which you should avoid. If you discover a deficiency in a blood test, don’t overlook it! Due treatment is necessary for your health, the proper functioning of your bodily systems and preventing irreversible damages.


We wish you nothing but health,

Supherb’s team of specialists

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