In 1885 an English physician and scientist, Thomas Addison discovered a disease with symptoms including pallor, shortness of breath, jaundice, weight loss and muscle spasms. The cause of the disease was unknown, and it was generally fatal. It became known as Addison’s anemia (now known as pernicious anemia).
The first treatments for pernicious anemia were devised by George Whipple. He went on to investigate the effects of liver consumption on pernicious anemia, and in 1920 he published a paper on how eating liver had beneficial effects on sufferers of pernicious anemia. He was a recipient of the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1934 for the treatment of this condition.
Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, was isolated from a liver extract in 1948 and identified as the nutritional factor that prevented pernicious anemia.
Available sources of B12
It is commonly believed that B12 is available only through the consumption of animal products. Dr. Michael Klaper, M.D. clarifies this: “It is important to understand, however, that animals do NOT make vitamin B12. Instead, vitamin B12 is exclusively made by microorganisms living in soil and water. Cows, deer, and other free-living, grazing animals have vitamin B12 in their muscles and flesh because they eat grass with B12-producing organisms in soil particles that cling to plant roots.”
Food sources of vitamin B12 include poultry, meat, fish, eggs and dairy products. Some of the highest food sources of B12 are clams, beef liver and nutritional yeast. Recent analyses revealed that some plant-source foods, such as certain fermented beans and vegetables and edible algae and mushrooms, contain some amounts of bioactive vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 is the most chemically complex of all the vitamins and comes in several forms. The most common and least expensive form is cyanocobalamin which is difficult for the body to absorb. The most effective form of B12 is methylcobalamin particularly when taken sublingually (dissolved in the mouth).
The other method of getting B12 is by injection which many doctors prefer, however, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association: “…oral therapy produces reliable and effective treatment.”
Principal Uses of B12
- Depression: In an October 2020 scientific journal, researchers reviewed data and studies to prove a relationship between Vitamin B12 and depression. Numerous studies were reviewed, and based on these studies, it was concluded that supplementation of Vitamin B12 early enough can delay the onset of depression and improve the effect of antidepressants when used in conjunction with Vitamin B12.
- Tinnitus: Scientists discovered a relationship between B12 deficiency and auditory dysfunction. Improvements in noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus was reported.
- Diabetic Neuropathy: Physicians have used vitamin B12 supplementation with some success in treating neuropathy.
- Asthma: Dr. Jonathan Wright, M.D. states that “B12 therapy is the mainstay in childhood asthma.” He continues that his patients showed less shortness of breath on exertion and improvement in appetite, sleep and general condition.
Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
- Weakness, tiredness or lightheadedness
- Heart palpitations and shortness of breath
- Pale skin
- Red, sore or smooth tongue
- Constipation, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or gas
- Nerve problems like numbness or tingling, muscle weakness, and problems walking
- Vision loss
- Headaches(including migraines)
- Chronic fatigue
- Memory loss
- Mouth ulcers
- Decreased appetite and weight loss
Deficiency affects 15 percent of patients older than 60 and results in hematological and neurological disorders. Low levels of Vitamin B12 may also be an independent risk factor for coronary artery disease.
Richard Goldberg graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Florida State University and a Masters/Ph.D. from Clayton College (Holistic Nutrition). He is currently working as a Nutritional Consultant at Felton Nutrition where he provides free nutritional consultations to members of our communities. His views are his own and not necessarily those of the Press Banner.