So whats all the fuss about B12? If you follow a plant based diet you will have come across this, but some reports are indicating that B12 deficiency is not the lone allocation of the vegan. In fact people with absorption of b12 problems are not in the minority, people with celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, pancreas dysfunction, history of bowel or stomach surgery, and others. So just because you munch on a dead carcass or two doesn’t exempt you.
So what is b12? In the simplest terms it is a non aerobic bacteria – that is to say it is a bacteria that doesn’t breath oxygen. It is produced in the gut of animals (there we go back to the microbiome!) and used to be found in soil where we traditionally got our B12 from, however with the advent of the laudable green revolution which saw petrochemical pesticides used to support big agriculture and the fact we diligently clean all our vegetables before eating. The bottom line is we don’t eat dirt any more or the bacteria that it contains. As an aside I read the other day that playing in dirt is more beneficial to you than taking prozac for depression. again the microbiome – Isn’t that a wonderful thing I now understand why my 2.5 year old Daughter has such a beaming smile when she comes home from kindergarten covered in dirt. I cant say the same for my wife’s expression though!
So B12 is a water soluble vitamin which aids the generation of cells in the body as well as DNA maintenance, It also helps with other B vitamins in metabolising carbohydrates into energy and has some profound relationship to mental health. I have briefly read studies which have taken acutely paranoid psychotic patients and had them injected with high doses of B12 as well as B3 whereupon they have gone from being a quivering wreck in the corner, to sitting at their dinner table chatting away as if nothing has happened. So clearly our appreciation and understanding of B12 and the B vitamins is still on a frontier. And as I mentioned it seems to be pointing to that microbiome story which keeps me captivated. I feel as the research into this gains pace we will see a revolution in health treatments – but i’m probably repeating my self here!
Other sources of B12 are available other than animal flesh, supplements being the main one but a word of warning I just read if your a smoker and male then consuming over 50 mcg day increases your risk factor for lung cancer quite significantly – I stress this was only one study and we all know what one study can do to the stats.
Other sources for B12 are hotly debated being seaweed and algae (chlorella) where varying amounts can be found, the debate seems to be weather we can absorb it very well. I hear wonderful things about chlorella with its amino acids and nutrients that are not available else where it is simply a super food. Mind it doesn’t taste great so a sprinkle in your flavoursome smoothie might be a small sprinkle unless you like the taste! can’t say I’m a fan!
Children’s development is reliant on B12 and a host of other vitamins, as my children are plant eaters I make sure the whole family has a B12 boost as well as other multi vitamins. You can’t do any harm so no harm and just in case. I know the arguments about absorption here as well – so my main supplements are what they can’t eat and B12 falls into this. With growing fussy children I give them them a good multivitamin to be sure that when they refused to eat their spinach for today they will still get a dose of Iron.
So as with allot of these nutritional subjects B12 is not an exact science, there is a body of evidence to say we need it but exactly how much we can’t say and everyone appears to be different. Bio-individuality is the mantra on my health coaching course but I think its safe to say B12 should be part of your supplement campaign regardless of being a meat eat or not!