Authored by Sheramy Tsai via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
Vitamin B12 is more than just another nutrient. It’s a key player in maintaining our health and well-being. Recent studies have highlighted its pivotal role in managing inflammation, a root cause of many chronic diseases.
Recent findings published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture have uncovered a significant correlation between vitamin B12 deficiency and chronic inflammation. This inflammation can pave the way for conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and even certain brain disorders.
Study Insights: B12 Deficiency and Inflammation
While earlier studies highlighted Vitamin B12’s role in combating inflammation, Spanish researchers have now provided deeper insights. They focused on how vitamin B12 interacts with inflammation indicators, specifically proteins such as interleukin-6 (IL-6) and C-reactive protein (CRP), both of which rise during inflammatory responses.
Using data from the PREDIMED trial, researchers focused on 136 participants with notable cardiovascular risks. The study uncovered a clear pattern: as Vitamin B12 levels increased, inflammation markers such as IL-6 and CRP declined.
“Generally, higher Vitamin B12 levels correlate with lower inflammation,” said Marta Kovatcheva, a researcher at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine in Barcelona and co-first author of the study.
Parallel research on older mice validated the human findings. However, unlike humans, mice don’t experience age-related B12 decline, suggesting potential areas for future investigation.
Consequences of B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, is essential for forming red blood cells that transport oxygen and nutrients. Even with a modest daily requirement of 2.4 micrograms, this vitamin is still hard for many people to get enough of, especially given that the body absorbs about half of the B12 from dietary sources. Up to 90 percent of vegetarians and vegans are deficient due to B12’s primary sources being animal products. About 20 percent of meat-eaters could also have insufficient levels.
“Doctors often overlook B12 deficiency. While blood tests may show as ‘normal,’ they don’t always reflect the active, usable B12 in the body,” Dr. J. David Spence, professor emeritus at Western University, Ontario, told The Epoch Times. “This oversight means many might be deficient without even realizing it.”
The consequences of B12 deficiency are serious, ranging from anemia to neurological problems. Studies have shown a connection between low B12 levels and dementia and depression. Other complications of low B12 levels may include infertility, heart conditions, stomach cancer, and an increased risk of stroke.
Most people are unaware that they’re deficient in vitamin B12, a condition that can develop gradually or suddenly. B12 deficiency may manifest in symptoms such as numbness or tingling in extremities, balance issues, anemia, cognitive challenges including memory loss, headaches, heart palpitations, and general feelings of weakness or fatigue. Due to its diverse symptoms, it can easily be mistaken for other health issues.
Vitamin B12 Effects on Inflammation
The study authors identified a few potential reasons for the observed connection between inflammation and decreased B12 levels.
A deficiency in B12 leads to elevated homocysteine levels. Without adequate B12, our body struggles to convert homocysteine into the useful molecule methionine. Excess homocysteine can induce inflammation, harm blood vessels, and contribute to numerous health problems.
Dr. Spence concurs that there’s a link between inflammation and homocysteine. His extensive research underscores how a lack of B12 can amplify these levels, heightening the risk of stroke. B vitamins are essential in mitigating homocysteine and its associated threats.
B12-deficient cells ramp up the production of inflammatory molecules such as IL-6. Studies show that when older adults supplement with B12 and folate, these inflammatory markers decline, underscoring B12’s protective role.
The researchers also believe that B12 might help control inflammation by reducing the creation of cytokines, small proteins that can promote inflammation. These proteins are often produced by a type of white blood cell called T lymphocytes, or T cells, which play a role in immunity.
Inflammation acts like an alarm system for our body, signaling that something might be wrong. While short-term inflammation is beneficial, prolonged inflammation is problematic. The study noted that elevated B12 corresponds to reduced CRP levels, underscoring the vitamin’s preventive role.
The authors acknowledge study limitations, particularly the restricted sample size and the one-off measurement of B12 and inflammation markers, which could influence the study’s depth.
Should I Supplement With B12?
B12 deficiency is often a silent ailment that grows more prevalent with age. For those contemplating B12 supplementation, discussing it with a health care professional is prudent. A blood test examining vitamin B12 and its counterpart, plasma total homocysteine, can help determine one’s B12 health.
Our bodies don’t naturally produce B12, relying instead on dietary sources. Food remains the primary channel, with organ meats, poultry, and seafood at the forefront. For an offbeat choice, seaweed offers a surprising B12 bounty.
When turning to supplements, cyanocobalamin often emerges as the go-to choice, given its affordability. However, this synthetic variant has a catch: It discharges minute cyanide traces upon being metabolized and can pose risks for those with specific health concerns.
A safer bet is methylcobalamin—a natural B12 variant found in our gut. For those leaning into natural wellness, a B complex supplement spotlighting methylcobalamin or its equivalent, adenosylcobalamin, is a viable option.