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The Benefits of Increasing Your B12 Intake

The Benefits of Increasing Your B12 Intake

The lifestyle of today’s culture has people running from one appointment or responsibility to the next, and the hustle and bustle has many skipping meals, relying on packaged snacks for a quick pick-me-up, or heading through a fast-food drive-thru for dinner on the go. Finding the time to shop and prepare healthy foods has become more difficult, and the American waistline and health statistics are showing how these bad habits are negatively affecting overall health and wellness. Poor health ultimately affects the quality of life and longevity.

Startling Facts of American Health

The latest research from the CDC indicates that almost 40% of adult Americans are considered obese, with the numbers continuing to climb each year. Obesity is defined as a body mass index of greater than 30, and severe obesity or the state of being morbidly obese requires a BMI that is greater than 40. Obesity is a leading factor in the development of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and stroke. Being overweight isn’t the only problem associated with the fast-food lifestyle and poor dietary choices. Research conducted by the World Health Organization reveals that 60% of an individual’s overall health and quality of life is impacted by their lifestyle. An unhealthy lifestyle, such as lack of sufficient exercise, insufficient consumption of important nutrients, and high-stress levels can lead to situations od disability, illness, and in severe cases, death. Joint and skeletal problems, hypertension, metabolic diseases, and cardiovascular diseases can be the devastating results of a lifestyle that puts health and wellness on the back burner. The latest life expectancy trends have shown American longevity falling, and much of this can be blamed on poor lifestyle choices. Heart disease is the leading killer of men and women across the U.S., a condition directly linked to what you put in your body and what you withhold from your body.

The Nutritional Gap in America

The easiest foods for Americans to access are chemically-altered, prepackaged products full of sugar and other additives. That’s not to say that healthy food isn’t available across the country, but some demographics struggle to afford nutrient-rich foods or don’t have the knowledge concerning what those foods are. There is a gap in nutrition, leaving individuals more susceptible to illness and disease. Immune systems are being fueled by sugars, chemicals, and carbs that don’t carry the same national value as vitamins and minerals. One key area of deficiency is has been the B vitamin family. There are eight total vitamins, and all of them are needed to keep our cells functioning at their maximum potential. Each B vitamin contributes to a specific and important function within the body, so failing to give your body even a little of what it needs can pave the way for serious health problems. Of these essential B vitamins is B12.

B12, The Underdog

Without a balanced diet, the body doesn’t get enough B12.  Though a true deficiency in the vitamin only occurs in about 15% of the American population, you may feel the impact of poor B12 intake in key areas of your health. B12 is a nutrient vital the body’s nerve and blood cells, as it creates the DNA material within the cells. As an immune system assistant, it can prevent a form of anemia (megaloblastic anemia) that often leaves individuals weak and tired. It is possible for people to have trouble absorbing B12 from both dietary supplements and foods, and this could be due to a condition called pernicious anemia. The stomach produces a protein called intrinsic factor, which is what helps the body absorb any vitamin B12 found in a food or supplement. Pernicious anemia is a condition where the stomach does not make enough intrinsic factor. Without enough intrinsic factor and B12, the body’s ability to make and regulate DNA, as well as the RNA involved in the production and regulation of protein is jeopardized. It could also put the brakes on the growth and proliferation of the body’s nearly 30 trillion cells. It an essential nutrient for the body, fortifying bone marrow production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to the brain and white blood cells that boost the immune defenses throughout the body. This is just the starting point for the benefits of B12 on the body’s health.

The Defense Against Poor Cognitive Health

A stressful lifestyle and poor health impact an individual’s longevity, though many fail to understand how this occurs. Many people turn to anti-aging routines and medications to take care of problems with a slow metabolism, the appearance of wrinkles or skin discoloration, low libido, and frail muscles or bones. Cognitive decline is a serious concern of aging as well, and with reports showing that cognitive decline and impairment are increasingly affecting the American public. According to the CDC, one in nine adults experiences trouble with cognitive decline, though less than half of these individuals discuss their condition or concerns with a healthcare provider. In the fight against cognitive impairment, B12 is an effective defense. The body’s nervous tissues and the structural integrity of the brain and spinal cord are dependent on an adequate supply of B12. In addition to what it does for the blood cells and DNA functioning, this vitamin assists with the production of key neurotransmitters like dopamine. This chemical is one of the few that transmits signals between the nerve cells of the brain,  with other neurotransmitters being norepinephrine and epinephrine. Healthy neurotransmitters are linked to better moods, memory ability, personality, behavior, and mental clarity. The brain requires sufficient levels of B12 to generate enough energy to handle the demands of the body and the impact of an individual’s lifestyle.

The Supplement Option for Improved Health

You may not realize the extent of your B12 deficiency until the symptoms are severe. The symptoms often come on gradually and are slow to develop, though some experience a more rapid decline in their condition. Some of the symptoms include tingling in the legs, hands, or feet, numbness, difficulty with walking and balance, anemia, an inflamed or swollen tongue, weakness, memory loss or difficulty with reasoning and thinking, and constant fatigue. These symptoms can easily be confused with other conditions or concerns, so deficiencies often go unaddressed until a physician pinpoints the problem. Though it is possible to improve your B12 levels with food products, the most effective way is through a supplement. B12 injections are the quickest way to bring your body’s levels back into balance, improve your memory functions, regulate your sleeping patterns, increase your energy levels, and boost your immune system.

If you aren’t comfortable with injections, you can still give your body more B12 through your food choices and a supplement. The vitamin isn’t found in noticeable doses through plant-based foods, as it is naturally found in animal products such as poultry, meat, fish, milk products, and dairy. Clams and liver are two of the foods with the highest B!2 content, but many people find these hard to stomach. Some food manufacturers are now fortifying their product with B12, with breakfast cereal being one of the most common fortified products. By paying close attention to what you eat and proactively increasing your intake of vitamin B12, you can find yourself in better health and able to tackle the busy schedule of life.

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About the author

Dr. Richard Smith, MD

7 min read