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Vitamin B12 Myth Buster

UPDATE to DrG Note on Vitamin B-12: Social Media FACT AND FICTION

I receive different e-articles from scientific and lay journals on a daily basis. I received one recently that caught my attention titled “7 Things To Eliminate From Your Diet Immediately”.

Most of these types of articles are written in general terms. At best these lay articles allow for thought provocation, further research and discussion. At worst, they can be misleading and misdirecting as this particular article is. In today’s social media based society, unsubstantiated opinion can be spread around like wildfire as fact by well-intended individuals. So how do you figure out whether something you read online is a good source? Unfortunately there are no hard and true guidelines that eliminate all bad articles. Generally, if an article does not cite an author like this one does not, or if an article simply makes statements without references then you can consider it with a large grain of salt. Many articles, such as this one, have both good and bad information together, which contributes to the overall confusion. It is the reference to B-12 in this article I would like to address.

As correctly stated in this internet article, B-12 supplementation does not directly “give you energy” (see DrG blog post April 2013 below). I agree with the general description of B-12 physiology in the body. Where I disagree entirely is the article’s description of the cyanocobalamin form of B-12 as a harmful supplement. The article states correctly that cyanocobalamin contains the cyanide molecule. Unfortunately it goes on to imply that this is dangerous. Simply put, it is not. The cyanocobalamin form is the most stable form of B-12 supplements and requires less to equal other forms of B-12 supplements. The amount of cyanide found in cyanocobalamin is so miniscule that there is no danger in acute or cumulative effects. In fact, there is more cyanide found in one tablespoon of flax seeds or a handful of cashews than in a full 1000mic dose of intramuscular cyanocobalamin taken once a month for a full year. It is important to know of the millions of Vitamin B-12 injections done in this country, there has never been a single cyanide poisoning documented. Ever.

Stay safe, stay strong, eat well, and consider the source of your information.

DrG

April 2013, DrG Note on Vitamin B-12: Social Media FACT AND FICTION

Vitamin B12 plays an important role in anemia, brain and nervous system function, and your ability to fight off and process toxins. Unfortunately, the marketing world and many social media sources are often misleading on this subject. Vitamin B12 supplements are not guaranteed to “give you energy”, “make you lose weight,” or “increase your life span” directly as many marketing schemes and weight loss centers proclaim. These may be positive side effects, but everyone reacts differently to the vitamin.

Vitamin B12 is a member of the vitamin B complex. It contains cobalt, and so is also known as cobalamin. It is exclusively synthesized by bacteria and is found primarily in meat, eggs and dairy products. There has been considerable research into proposed plant sources of vitamin B12. Fermented soya products, seaweeds, and algae such as spirulina have all been suggested as containing significant B12. However, the present consensus is that any B12 present in plant foods is likely to be unavailable to humans and so these foods should not be relied upon as safe sources.

Vitamin B12 is stored in the liver in significant quantities and improves your body’s ability to process the poisons you ingest each day. It enables your endocrine and immune system to function more efficiently. This may enable you to feel better, fight off disease easier, lose weight or sleep better in an indirect and temporary way. Having these symptoms may indicate a need for further evaluation by your physician for a true B12 deficiency or other underlying medical condition.

Vitamin B12 is necessary for the synthesis of red blood cells, the maintenance of the nervous system, and growth and development in children. B-12 plays a role in protecting your DNA. Deficiency can cause certain anemias. Vitamin B12 neuropathy, involving the degeneration of nerve fibers and irreversible neurological damage, can also occur. B12 deficiency has been found to be more prevalent in the general population than previously thought. People over 50 years old are more susceptible to Vitamin B12 deficiency as are diabetics on specific medications.

Vegetarians or anyone who does not eat meat or dairy products are at risk for low vitamin B-12. However, most people who have low vitamin B-12 are not strict vegetarians. Most people with an absolute low vitamin B-12 levels and serious deficiency usually have trouble absorbing vitamin B-12 from their stomach or small intestines. People with Crohn’s Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, bariatric surgery patients, along with any individual with chronic bowel issues all are at risk for B-12 Deficiency.

Over-the-counter multivitamins do not contain enough vitamin B-12 to raise a low level. To get enough vitamin B-12, you will need to take special vitamin B-12 supplements in the form of sublingual liquids or an intramuscular injection. Your doctor can help decide whether a simple trial of B12 liquid supplements or shots is right for you.

At Atlantis Medical Wellness Center in Silver Spring, MD, we offer single doses of B12 shots as well as discounted B12 packages. Walk ins are welcome for B12 shots or call (301)622-2722 to schedule an appointment.

Dr G
Benjamin Gonzalez, MD
Medical Director
Atlantis Medical Wellness Center

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