The simple answer as far as increasing our energy, is yes, due mainly to the fact that more and more Americans are deficient in Vitamin B12. There is not a solid body of evidence supporting the idea B12 helps you lose weight, but it may help if you are deficient in B12, as deficiencies have been shown to cause fatigue as well as a reduced rate of metabolism.
Vitamin B12, or Cobalamin, is the largest and most complex vitamin we’ve isolated and studied. Deficiencies may lead to pernicious anemia, poor appetite, failure to thrive (growth failure in children), tiredness and reduced energy, nervousness, depression, sleep disorders, changes in mood, and more.
Here’s a little background. Your body depends on vitamin B12 for a multitude of functions:
- It helps maintain normal energy levels
- It is involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats
- It supports alertness, and other neurological activity
- It works with homocysteine levels for healthy heart function
- It reduces stress and may promote sleep
- It is involved in optimum immune function
Vitamin B12 is necessary for carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism. It helps in the formation and regeneration of red blood cells, which is how it helps prevent anemia. B12 maintains a healthy nervous system; promotes growth in children; and increases energy. Not available in plants, this vitamin is found in animal sources including beef, liver, blue cheese, eggs, fish, milk, and milk products.
Because Vitamin B12 is only found in animal sources, vegans are especially prone to B12 deficiency, as they depend on plants for all their nutrients. (I suggest foods fortified with B12 for my clients who are vegans: some breakfast cereals and plant milks.)
The natural process of aging, or getting older, causes there to be less available B12 in your blood. This is due to the lining of your stomach gradually losing its ability to produce hydrochloric acid, necessary to release vitamin B12 from your food.
There are other contributing factors to our reduced B12 status. Popping antacids such as Tums, or taking anti-ulcer drugs that lower stomach acid secretion will reduce the ability to absorb vitamin B12.
Another cause of reduced B12 levels in some people is “food-cobalamin malabsorption syndrome.” This can happen when the stomach lining loses its ability to create intrinsic factor, which is a protein that binds to B12 so that it can be absorbed in the small intestine. Often, patients that undergo gastric bypass surgery lose their ability to make intrinsic factor as it is made in the lower part of the stomach, which is often removed in such surgeries.
Very low B12 intakes and/or the inability to absorb B12 (such as seen in the two cases stated above), can cause anemia and nervous system damage.
So, I usually recommend vegans, anyone suspecting B12 deficiency, and all folks over 60, to take a supplement of B12. It is important to take at least 10 mcgs per day, (it is a water soluble nutrient, so taking more has little downside risk). Also, at the same time, take a good Vitamin B-complex, as it is important to supplement all of the B vitamins together -they are integrative in their processes. An over-consumption of one B vitamin can counterbalance the others.
So, the bottom line is: While B12 may not be the universal magical energy-panacea I often see claimed, a deficiency of this nutrient certainly needs to be ruled out. And it may just be exactly what you need!
By now you know that we do not believe in the one-size-fits-all approach to anything. Try supplementing with B12 and see what difference(s), if any, you feel. Note that it takes quite some time to become B12 deficient, so if after a month or so of taking the product, you go off of it and you notice no difference in energy, overall well being, etc. it may not mean that you did not need to supplement, it just may be that you have not been off of the supplement long enough to become deficient. However, if you notice a marked difference, chances are you may have been one of the many who is deficient in this vitamin.
Resources and Links:
- “Are vitamin B-12 injections helpful for weight loss?“ http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vitamin-b12-injections/AN01400
- Foods high in B12: http://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/foods-high-in-vitamin-B12.php
- National Institutes of Health: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/vitaminb12/
- Wikipedia: B12: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitamin_B12
- B12 Studies: www.Medscape.com http://search.medscape.com/news-search?newSearchHeader=1&queryText=B12
© 2012 Lucho Crisalle, CEO, Exercise & Nutrition Works, Inc.
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