Close to a third of adults suffer from B12 deficiency and vegans are particularly at risk. Nutrition expert, Dr. David Nelson, reveals the shocking consequences of this and a promising way to correct this.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause anemia, robbing cells of oxygen and making people tired. It can cause joint pain and pins and needles. It can also dramatically increase the risk of heart disease. And it doesn't stop there.
"Vitamin B12 is a powerful brain nutrient," points out Dr. David Nelson, Ph D, nutritionist at the Center for Advanced Medicine. "Low B12 levels have been linked to brain health issues ranging from Alzheimer's to ADHD. But here's the thing that shocks a lot of people . . . low B12 is linked to smaller brain size. Not getting enough B12 simply shrinks the brain."
An estimated 32% of adults over 50 have severely low B12 levels and perhaps 20% are borderline for this problem. Unfortunately, B12 deficiency is often overlooked. While B12 deficiency can come on quickly and dramatically, often it sneaks up on people as the body uses up vitamin B12 stores in the liver and has a harder time recycling it from bile.
"While it can hit anyone, strict vegetarians and seniors are particularly at risk," explains Dr. Nelson. "If you're vegan you can't find the active form you need in most plant sources. Vitamin B12 is almost exclusively found in animal products - meat, eggs, fish and dairy. When it comes to the risk for seniors, as we get older our stomach produces less of this special protein we need for B12 absorption called the intrinsic factor."
Dr. Nelson warns there are plenty of claims that certain plant-sourced foods can provide enough B12. However, these claims are usually misleading since the method of measuring B12 levels does not distinguish between different forms of the vitamin. There are several different forms of B12. And human bodies can only use one kind.
Vegans who have thought they could rely on fermented foods like tempeh or spirulina may not be getting the form of B12 their body can use. Fermented foods have scant amounts. Even worse, the B12 found in spirulina has been found to block active B12 absorption, speeding up the development of B12 deficiency.
However, two studies hint that there may be a vegetarian option for B12.
In a Japanese study, three different types of alga - purple and green lavers and chlorella - were found to have the bioavailable form of B12.To make sure that this was the active form of B12 mammals require, researchers gave these alga to B12 deficient animals and found these seaweeds and chlorella reversed this.
A very small scale Finnish study found the same results in humans. The study first compared the serum B12 levels of vegans and omnivores. They found the vegan's serum levels were far below the omnivore's levels. However, within the vegan group, the vegans who ate nori seaweed and chlorella had B12 levels that were two times higher than those of the vegans who didn't eat these foods.
"If you're vegan or older . . . if you're tired often and have a hard time thinking clearly, get your B12 levels checked out," advises Dr. Nelson. "And then take measures to get them up to par by eating B12-rich foods like chlorella. You might be pleasantly surprised. Draggy days can turn upbeat. Foggy moments may become sparkling clear. For people with B12 deficiency, correcting it can make a world of difference now and well into your future."
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About Dr. David Nelson, Ph D
David Nelson is a nutritional consultant, and has been involved in the field of nutritional studies for over 20 years. Dr. Nelson studied at San Diego University, Iowa State University, and Mankato State University. He currently specializes in the areas of Anti-aging, Sports Performance Nutrition, and Allergy. For the past 15 years, Dr. Nelson has been the Nutritionist at the Center for Advanced Medicine, and co-hosts the radio show "Health Talk, A Second Opinion," with the other doctors from the Center. He is also an esteemed member of the Sun Chlorella Advisory Board, which helps guide the medical innovation behind Sun Chlorella products.
About Sun Chlorella USA
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