Those who lack vitamin B12 are at an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and dementia. We explain the signs of vitamin B12 deficiency and how to balance it intelligently – with a daily schedule. Because B12 is the only vitamin that is not in fruits and vegetables.
Vitamin B12 is perhaps the most underrated vitamin. Only recently, the specialist societies of Switzerland and Austria raised the reference value for vitamin B12 (ad) from three to four micrograms per day.
“This is an estimate based on studies that measured several parameters in the blood,” says Silke Restemeyer, graduate oecotrophologist, and DGE consultant.
According to the National Consumer Survey (NVS II), although most adult men and women consume sufficient vitamin B12, at-risk groups are often undersupplied.
Who is at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency
For example, these are people over the age of 65, because the intake and utilization of vitamin B12 from their diet does not work so well with them. They only produce the so-called intrinsic factor in less quantity. This is an enzyme that transports the vitamin to the intestinal cells as a transporter. Only a fraction of the vitamin can, therefore, exert its effect.
Other risk groups:
- Vegetarian, especially during pregnancy and lactation
- People in whom the intake of vitamin B12 in the stomach and intestines is disturbed, so for example in chronic inflammation in this area such as gastritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis
- Who takes permanently certain medications, such as proton pump inhibitor (against too much stomach acid), metformin (diabetes drug)
- Who is constantly under stress: Because the vitamin is involved, among other things in the formation of stress hormones. Because of this, the mental memory overload keeps the vitamin B12 memory empty.
- Who drinks a lot of alcohol: Many people with high alcohol consumption have a vitamin B12 deficiency.
Vitamin B12 is essential for low homocysteine
Vitamin B12 is actually a generic term for various cobalamins, such as hydroxy and adenosylcobalamin in fish and meat, in milk methylcobalamin. Vitamin B12 is involved as a coenzyme in various metabolic processes in the body. The problem: the body can not make it by itself and it is vital. The main tasks of vitamin B12:
- It is involved in cell renewal and blood formation.
- It stabilizes the DNA.
- It protects the nerves and brain.
- It supports protein and fat metabolism.
- Vitamin B12 converts the unfavourable homocysteine into the less harmful methionine. Homocysteine is an amino acid that damages vessels that favors arteriosclerosis and is associated with heart attack and stroke.
In particular, the role of vitamin B12 as a reducer of homocysteine is interesting. Several studies have shown that elevated homocysteine levels significantly increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Low levels of homocysteine, such as vitamin B12, are therefore beneficial.
Vitamin B12 deficiency – the signs
In accordance with its various functions, the signs of vitamin B12 deficiency are also very different, ranging from all symptoms of anemia (paleness, fatigue) to concentration problems, dizziness, muscle weakness, and neurological disorders and nerve damage such as neuropathy with sensory disturbances in the legs. These nerve damage can be irreversible if the vitamin deficiency persists for a long time.
It is also discussed, in particular, how a vitamin B12 deficiency is associated with an increased risk of dementia such as Alzheimer’s. “Although studies show that vitamin B12 deficiency often reduces cognitive performance, the data is contradictory when it comes to preventing these changes with vitamin B12 supplementation,” notes nutritionist Restemeyer.
Have vitamin B12 status clarified professionally
Anyone who notes any of the above symptoms and / or belongs to the risk groups should best have a blood test performed by the doctor. “It is important to measure at least two biomarkers, such as total vitamin B12 and holo-TC (holo-transcobalamin) in serum or plasma, plus a meaningful functional parameter such as methylmalonic acid (MMA) or homocysteine in serum,” advises Silke Restemeyer. The blood test costs 16 euros.
To eat enough vitamin B12 daily
If the deficiency is not pronounced, it is usually sufficient to modify your diet plan a bit and to focus on the B vitamin. Rich in vitamin B12 are the following foods: meat, fish, dairy products, eggs.
The DGE gives an example of a daily schedule that can reach the reference value of four micrograms:
- 150 ml milk with 1.5% fat i. Tr. = 0.6 micrograms of vitamin B12
- 1 small cup of yogurt with 1.5% fat i. Tr. = 0.6 micrograms of vitamin B12
- 1 boiled egg = 1.14 micrograms of vitamin B12
- 60 gr Camembert with 30% fat i. Tr. = 1.86 micrograms of vitamin B12
Total = 4.2 micrograms of vitamin B12
- 100 grams of cooked, lean beef = 4.5 micrograms of vitamin B12
- 60 gr cream cheese with 50% fat i. Tr. = 0.3 micrograms of vitamin B12
- 30 gr Gouda with 30% fat I. Tr. = 0.66 micrograms of vitamin B12
Total = 5.46 micrograms of vitamin B12
Incidentally, vitamin B12 is quite heat-stable, so it is hardly lost when heating, frying and cooking.
Vegetarians and vegans can not rely on sauerkraut and algae
Anyone consciously abstaining from meat, or even eggs and dairy products is at risk of getting a vitamin B12 deficiency. Many vegans and vegetarians then trust that some plant foods also contain the nerve vitamin, such as fermented vegetables or certain algae. Because all other vitamins, including some B vitamins, are also contained in plant foods.
“For vitamin B12, however, this is not true, it is the only vitamin that occurs in significant quantities (almost exclusively) in meat, fish, seafood, eggs, and dairy products – but not in plant”, the nutritionist clarifies.
Although sauerkraut (through fermentation with the help of bacteria) and algae actually provide vitamin B12, in such small amounts that they are hardly considered as a source – or these are so-called vitamin B12 analogues. These forms do not work like the vitamin, but block the B12 transport in the body and thus trigger the opposite: The body can not use the few effective vitamin B12 that may be present.
The body often uses vitamin B12 from tablets better
“Vegans should definitely and permanently take a vitamin B12 preparation and have the supply regularly checked by a doctor,” advises the nutritionist. Even vegetarians, who have an increased need for nutrients, such as during pregnancy and lactation, should pay attention to a sufficient vitamin B12 intake.
If vitamin B12 deficiency is detected, it should be compensated by appropriate dietary supplements. This can be done orally as tablets and capsules. Tolerability and bioavailability are good. Vitamin B12 and “Cyanocobalamin as a crystalline substance, as it often occurs in dietary supplements, is even better utilized by patients with gastritis than vitamin B12 from food,” says the expert.
Overdosage with the commercially available vitamin B12 dietary supplements is hardly possible with reasonable handling. Silke Restemeyer: “In a study with dialysis patients, no adverse effects were recorded after years of taking 2.5 milligrams after each dialysis (that is, a multiple of the estimated value of 4 or 5 micrograms).” Nevertheless important: If vitamin B12 is taken on a sustained basis Preparations should be checked the vitamin B12 status every now and then.
Vitamin B12 as an injection
Sometimes, however, this active supplementation is not enough. This may be the case if one or more factors exist, such as:
- The lack is strong.
- Recording disorders – such as old age or chronic inflammation of the digestive tract
- Medicines that prevent the absorption of the vitamin, but can not be suspended or replaced
Then the doctor advises a vitamin B12 cure by injection. At intervals of a few days or a week, the vitamin is given muscular. Depending on the product, an injection costs about five to ten euros.
Vitamin B12 still has unknown potential
So far, vitamin B12 is a much-underestimated vitamin. How important and diversified its effects are, studies are only gradually revealed. Thus, a clear, preventive effect of vitamin B12 in combination with B6 and folic acid against strokes has been demonstrated.
The vitamin could also play a role in cancer. However, there are only a few and sometimes contradictory studies. But here his ability to stabilize the DNA and thus prevent mutations could come to fruition.