MINIMISING RISK OF BRAIN DAMAGE PT 2
The consequence of B12 deficiency
This title may seem alarming however the facts are indisputable. With today’s lifestyle, there is a very high risk for certain people becoming B12 deficient…and it’s easier than you could imagine. In the last issue of Great Health GuideTM, I discussed the groups of people who were at the highest risk of becoming B12 deficient.
Here is a list of the groups of people at risk.
1. consuming a purely vegan whole food diet
2. having gastric bypass surgery (e.g. for the treatment of obesity)
3. being over the age of 50
4. taking antacids to treat stomach ulcers, hiatus hernia or indigestion
5. suffering from alcohol dependency
Essentially, each of these factors contribute to vitamin B12 deficiency and if you said ‘yes’ to more than one of the above, you have a VERY HIGH risk of being B12 deficient.
How do I know if I’m vitamin B12 deficient?
Ask your doctor for a blood test. Tell your doctor if you are taking folate tablets because folate can mask the anaemia seen in B12 deficiency.
So, what if I’m vitamin B12 deficient?
You could end up with anaemia, dementia or irreversible brain and nerve damage. How?
Vitamin B12 belongs to the B vitamin family. It has seven siblings: B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7 and B9. A vitamin is defined as a carbon-containing compound that is essential for life but which cannot be produced by the human body and must therefore be obtained through the diet.
B vitamins like to play together. In other words, they have many food sources in common and their functions in the body are often interrelated. B12 is the largest and most complex of all vitamins.
B vitamins are water-soluble which means if we consume too much of them, we excrete them in urine. If you’ve ever taken vitamin supplements and noticed that your urine is more yellowy-green than usual, you might be flushing money down the toilet - literally.
Vitamin B12 was named ‘cobalamin’ because it contains the element cobalt. It can occur in several different forms and the human body can convert one form into another after consumption.
B12 plays an essential role in proper functioning of the brain and nervous system, in formation of red blood cells and in metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
Consequently, B12 deficiency can result in:
• a particular type of anaemia known as ‘megaloblastic macrocytic anaemia’
• irreversible brain and nerve damage - it can be reversed if diagnosed and treated early enough
Symptoms of B12 deficiency can include:
• feeling weak, fatigued and breathless
• memory problems, confusion and forgetfulness
• headaches, dizziness or light headedness
• pale skin
• mania and psychosis
• reduced appetite and weight loss
• numbness and tingling in hands and feet
How do I take B12 supplements if I need them?
B12 supplements come as tablets (often in multivitamin formulas which is fine), nasal gels and intramuscular injections. Ask your doctor to recommend the most appropriate form for you.
Dr Helena Popovic is a medical doctor, leading authority on how to improve brain function, international speaker and best-selling author. Helena runs weight management retreats based on living not dieting, and is the author of the award-winning book ‘NeuroSlimming – let your brain change your body’. For more information, refer to Helena’s website.