Talk with the Doc

Vitamin B12 offers health benefits, memory help

Dr. James Surrell, Journal columnist

Vitamin B12 helps maintain healthy nerve cells and red blood cells. Vitamin B12 deficiency is most commonly seen in older adults and in vegetarians. A deficiency of Vitamin B12 can cause various signs and symptoms, including memory loss. If the memory loss is being caused by a deficiency of vitamin B12, taking vitamin B12 supplements can help improve memory.

In addition to its role in improving one’s memory, vitamin B12 remains an important part of a healthy diet. Vitamin B12 is found naturally in foods that come from animals, including fish, meat and poultry. In addition, many breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamin B12. If a person is concerned about their personal memory function, it is strongly recommended that you consult with your health care provider. It is especially recommended that any older adults and vegetarians who are concerned about memory loss consult with their health care provider without delay to be checked for any possible vitamin B12 deficiency.

Vitamin B12 is an essential human nutrient that helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA, the genetic material in all cells. Vitamin B12 also helps prevent a specific type of anemia called megaloblastic anemia that makes people tired and weak. Be aware that two steps are required for the body to absorb vitamin B12 from food. First, hydrochloric acid in the stomach separates vitamin B12 from the protein to which vitamin B12 is attached in food. After this, vitamin B12 combines with a protein made by the stomach called intrinsic factor and it is then absorbed by the body. Further, some people may have pernicious anemia, a condition in which they cannot make intrinsic factor. As a result, they have trouble absorbing vitamin B12 from all foods and dietary supplements.

Let us now take a more detailed look at what foods provide vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is found naturally in a wide variety of animal foods and is added to some fortified foods. Plant foods have no vitamin B12 unless they are fortified. You can get recommended amounts of vitamin B12 by eating a variety of foods including the following food items. Beef, liver and clams are the best sources of vitamin B12. Fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk and other dairy products also contain vitamin B12. Some breakfast cereals and various other food products are fortified with vitamin B12. To find out if vitamin B12 has been added to a food product, check the product labels.

Following is a brief review of some of the various additional kinds of vitamin B12 sources that are readily available. Vitamin B12 is found in almost all multivitamins. It is always very wise to check the food or drink product label to determine the amount of vitamin B12 provided in that specific item. Vitamin B12 is also available in sublingual forms which are dissolved under the tongue. However, there is no reported evidence that sublingual forms are better absorbed than pills that are swallowed. A prescription form of vitamin B12 can also be administered as a shot from your health care provider. This may also be used to treat a vitamin deficiency. Vitamin B12 is also available as a prescription medication in a nasal gel form that is sprayed into the nose.

The bottom line is that a vitamin B12 deficiency can impact one’s health including causing memory loss and various types of anemia. Know that there are readily available vitamin tablets and supplements and multiple foods that can provide healthy levels of vitamin B12. If you have any concerns about a possible B12 deficiency, consult with your health care provider without delay.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Jim Surrell is the author of “The ABC’s For Success In All We Do” and the “SOS (Stop Only Sugar) Diet” books.Contact Dr. Surrell by email at sosdietdoc@gmail.com.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper *

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today