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Benefits of Vitamin B12 and its Positive Effects on Aging

As we get older our memories degrade, our mental aptitude declines, and our motor skills are sluggish. We take these strikes to our human experience as being normal. After all, everyone gets older, and old age goes hand in hand with mental deterioration. However, we can actually control the likelihood that old age will make us go through these developments. How? Though there has been research that shows vitamins A, B6, and calcium have positive effects on age related diseases, B12, also known as cobalamin, is one of the more important vitamins that your body needs.

Research has shown that people who are deficient in B12 vitamins are more likely to acquire age-related diseases. As such, having adequate levels of B12 in the body ensure proper cognitive function, nervous system, and cardiovascular health. However, there is a problem with absorbing vitamin B12 as we age; people over 50 are especially susceptible to this inability as they do not have enough stomach acid to release B12 vitamins from foods[1]. Typically foods such as shellfish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products contain the needed amount of this vitamin. Non-animal sources of B12 are not reliable however, and so vegetarians are recommended to take vitamin supplements [2].

Studies have shown that about 10% to 30% of adults have vitamin B12 deficiency; however, this number may be higher because of how difficult it is to diagnose. Blood tests are not always a reliable indicator of B12 deficiency as most tests show the total amount of B12 in the body, both active and inactive forms. A person who eats a lot of seaweed will show high levels, when in actuality most of that B12 is in its inactive form. Also, because the liver is efficient at storing B12, even completely deficient diets might not result in low B12 levels for several years [3]. Thus a blood test will not give a real depiction of whether or not your body has enough active B12 to use.

B12 deficiency causes a buildup of homocysteine, an amino acid that is naturally made in the body. Elevated levels of homocysteine have been linked to heart disease and osteoporosis. Continued research has also shown effects such as: depression, alzheimer’s disease, memory loss, anorexia, and age related hearing loss. B12 deficiency also provokes a more rapid release of melatonin which upsets normal sleep patterns. The most important effect that proper B12 levels have is its impact on acquiring cancer; in one study subjects received 10 milligrams of folic acid daily, combined with 500 micrograms of vitamin B12 daily, for four months, producing a significant reduction in the number of subjects who exhibited abnormal bronchial cells believed to be cancer precursors [4].

So how can we give our bodies a helping hand when it comes to properly absorbing this very important vitamin? Well, there are actually four different types of vitamin B12, with some being more easily absorbable, while others may require more energy to take in. These four types include: methylcobalamin, cyanocobalamin, hydroxocobalamin, adenosylcobalamin[5]. Though none of these forms are bad for the body, cyanocobalamin is probably the worst out of the four. Cyanocobalamin is a synthetic version of B12, containing a cyanide molecule which requires the body to expend some energy to remove; it is the cheapest option to put into supplements. Hydroxocobalamin is naturally created by bacteria so is present in many foods; however, it too requires energy by the body to be converted into methylcobalamin. Adenosylcobalamin, also naturally occurring, is the least stable out of the four and difficult to incorporate into a supplement. All of these forms require methylation and energy input to be biologically active in the body.

Methylcobalamin on the other hand is the most active form in the human body and readily absorbable because it already contains a methyl group. This saves the body’s reserve of methyl groups for other purposes such as detoxing chemicals and stabilizing free radicals, groups of highly reactive atoms that can damage cellular components such as DNA and cell membranes[5].

Not only does B12 promote the removal of toxins, it also supports brain health. Methylcobalamin is the only form that can cross the blood-brain barrier and so can directly protect brain cells from degeneration[6]. While crossing the barrier, it also stimulates production of serotonin, a chemical neurotransmitter responsible for elevated mood; research where Alzheimer’s patients were administered methylcobalamin showcased improvements in memory, communication skills, and emotions. It also helps form the myelin sheath, the insular coating around nerve cells that allow for electrical impulses to travel through the nervous system more efficiently[6].

Along with protecting nervous and cardiovascular functions, methylcobalamin specifically has been proven to reduce risks of breast cancer, birth defects, and depression; and have shown to provide more energy, improve sperm count in males, and treat pernicious anemia, a dangerous condition that prevents the body from making specific proteins to absorb vitamin B12.

Needless to say, B12 is extremely important in one’s diet. The recommended dietary amounts of vitamin B12 are: 2.4 micrograms daily for ages 14 years and older, 2.6 micrograms daily for pregnant females, and 2.8 micrograms daily for breastfeeding females; these amounts increase as one ages[7]. The mid-day formula of Balanced Trio contains 100% of the daily requirement and also uses methylcobalamin which is easily absorbed so your body can enjoy all of its amazing health benefits.