B12 deficiency has been estimated to affect about 40% of people over 60 years of age, and about 40% of the general population are on the lower end of normal.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can look like the signs and symptoms of diseases that are commonly associated with aging such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, cognitive disorders, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and other neurological problems; depression and anxiety; cardiovascular disease; cancer; and low libido. If someone you love has these symptoms, best to get their B12 levels checked and supplement accordingly to help reduce symptoms.
Supplementing with an active form of B12 can help reduce inflammation, which has improved symptoms of arthritis and eczema.
Vitamin B12 works with folate to make DNA, red blood cells and the insulating sheath around the nerves to help with nerve signalling. This is why when I inject B12, I always include methylated folate with it.
If someone you know or love fall into any of these categories, best they get tested even if they don’t have symptoms, as deficiency can start before the symptoms show up.
Symptoms of B12 Deficiency
not much if it’s mild
numbness, or tingling in hands, legs, or feet
difficulty walking such as staggering or balance problems
a swollen, inflamed tongue
difficulty thinking and reasoning
paranoia or hallucinations
Testing for B12
It is easy to run a B12 test, however there are other blood and urine markers that can provide a more complete picture, such as methylmalonic acid (MMA) and homocysteine. Homocysteine may be more sensitive and accurate for detecting the early stages of B12 deficiency. When I run tests, I look at things from a functional medicine perspective and this may involve the more complete profile.
If there is an absorption issue suspected, we need to identify and correct that, if possible. Further testing and treatment may be required to do that.
The results of the tests are also interpreted differently when you come to see me. I look at things from a functional range – your optimum level of performance- not the point at which you have disease. The conventional medical system in North America regard a low B12 to be below 200 pg/mL. This is the point where irreversible neurological damage can happen. I prefer to go at the guidelines set out by Europe and Japan – somewhere over 550 pg/mL.
Sources of B12
Best to get B12 from hormone free, responsibly raised animal based sources – strongest providers are the organ meats (liver, kidney) and seafood like oysters and clams. To get ahead quickly or to supplement a vegan or vegetarian diet, you will need activated B12, so hydroxy or methyl based cobalamin are the best. If there is intestinal absorption issues, then you’ll need a pill to dissolve under the tongue or an injection to provide the boost. What I carry in the clinic is an activated form of B12/B complex so it absorbs easily.
At the clinic B12 injections are available. Research has shown that sublingual tablets are equally effective as injections, however I find for those suffering from mood slumps, poor energy or nerve pain, the injections can be like night and day. The formula I use include methylated folate to be sure the B12 gets into the red blood cell and also to provide additional energy boost. Even one shot can make a difference. Typically once a week for a month and then once a month for a few months gets people on their way to better health.