B-12 needed for blood cell pro­duc­tion and nerve health

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS -

DEAR DR. DONO­HUE: I am an 81-year-old woman in good health. Af­ter a favourable checkup re­cently, the doc­tor told me I should have a vi­ta­min B-12 shot ev­ery month for the rest of my life. I am not ane­mic. I have al­ways been re­luc­tant to take pills and shots of any kind. I am puz­zled about this sug­ges­tion. — G.M.

AN­SWER: Vi­ta­min B-12 is an es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ent in the pro­duc­tion of red blood cells and in the main­te­nance of nerve health. It’s a unique vi­ta­min. It is found only in meat. In ad­di­tion, it re­quires in­trin­sic fac­tor for its ab­sorp­tion. In­trin­sic fac­tor is made in the stom­ach. It takes B-12 by the hand and ush­ers it into the blood through the in­testi­nal wall. Without in­trin­sic fac­tor, B-12 leaves the body. A de­fi­ciency of the vi­ta­min gives rise to per­ni­cious ane­mia and leads to nerve and the spinal cord dam­age. You have no signs of ei­ther, and all your lab tests are OK.

At older ages, the pro­duc­tion of in­trin­sic fac­tor wanes, and that’s the rea­son per­ni­cious ane­mia is more com­mon then.

Since peo­ple with in­trin­sic fac­tor de­fi­ciency can­not ab­sorb B-12, doc­tors in North Amer­ica treat the de­fi­ciency with shots. The shots by­pass the need for in­trin­sic fac­tor. Doc­tors in Europe give large oral doses of the vi­ta­min, and some of that oral dose is ab­sorbed.

I, too, am puz­zled why your doc­tor wants you to take B-12 shots. At one time, they were given as a tonic for peo­ple com­plain­ing of weak­ness and lethargy. That’s not done much th­ese days. Why not ask the doc­tor for his rea­sons for want­ing you to have shots? You’ve roused my cu­rios­ity. Let me know what he says.

DEAR DR. DONO­HUE: Our 48year-old son has a hor­i­zon­tal in­den­ta­tion on both ear­lobes. Do they re­ally sig­nify po­ten­tial heart prob­lems? — J.G.

AN­SWER: A crease that runs di­ag­o­nally from the top of the ear­lobe to the edge of the bot­tom part of the ear­lobe has been said to be as­so­ci­ated with a greater risk for heart dis­ease. This idea pops up from time to time. Maybe there’s some­thing to it, but I would give a lot more cre­dence to things like cig­a­rette smok­ing, high choles­terol, fam­ily his­tory, di­a­betes, high blood pres­sure and phys­i­cal in­ac­tiv­ity.

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