The Benefits of B12

Vitamin B12Vitamin B12 is one of the eight B Vitamins and is usually associated with increased energy.  It is in fact the largest of all the vitamins and of course the most complex chemically.  It is an essential vitamin and the only one that contains cobalt, a trace mineral, at its center; this is why it is named cobalamin.  Vitamin B12 is water –soluble and plays an essential role in the production of DNA, nerve function, cell metabolism, and red blood cell formation.  Since B12 is water soluble the body rids itself of any excess or stores it in the liver for use later on when it is needed by the body, these stores can actually last up to a year so it may make finding low Vitamin B12 levels in the body very tough.  Vitamin B12 works like a cofactor in the body, acting as a “helper molecule” in the body which aids in biochemical transformations and processes.

There are 2 different forms of Vitamin B12, Methylcobalamin (methylated) and Cyancobalmin (non-methylated):

Cyanocobalmin is a synthetic version of B12 and does not occur naturally in any living organism.  It is a less expensive form of Vitamin B12 from a manufacturing point of view.  Cyanocobalmin, actually contains a cyanide molecule at the center, which is found naturally in apple seeds and almonds, but the body is forced to remove and replace the molecule with a methyl group.  In other words Cyanocobalmin must be broken down and converted to Methylcobalamin which is not always easily done, at least in most Americans.

Methylcobalamin is a bio-available and active form of Vitamin B12.  This form of Vitamin B12 eliminates the need for converting the inactive form of B12 (Cyanocobalmin) to the active form (Methylcobalamin).  Additionally the Methylcobalamin is able to cross the blood brain barrier and may stay in the body for longer time periods.  It is also believed that the Methyl form of Vitamin B12 stays in the tissues longer and is better absorbed in the body.

Approximately 40% of individuals are deficient in Vitamin B12, because Vitamin B12 needs intrinsic factor, a protein, and adequate stomach acid to be absorbed.  Dietary Vitamin B12 is only available in meat, fish and dairy products making vegans, vegetarians and pregnant women more at risk for a deficiency in this important nutrient.  Signs of a Vitamin B12 deficiency may include fatigue, brain fog, including mood swings, depression, confusion and memory loss, weakness, numbness, tingling in feet and hands, and sleep disorders.

Vitamn B12 aids in the following:

Energy Production: B12 plays a role in various biochemical reactions within the body.  As a matter of fact Vitamin B12 plays a role in synthesizing fatty acids and in energy production.  Lack of energy and fatigue are usually an early sign of Vitamin B12 deficiency due to the contribution Vitamin B12 makes in strengthening red blood cell formation and anemia prevention.

Red Blood Cell and White Blood Cell Formation:Reduction in Vitamin B12 levels may cause a reduction in both red and white blood cell formation, both of which are required for immune system function, platelet formation, clotting and energy production.  Vitamin B12 is essential for cell development and cell growth.

Neurotransmitter Creation:B12 is needed for GABA, an amino acid and neurotransmitter, to be created.  GABA relaxes the brain.  Vitamin B12 also acts as a cofactor in the blending of other neurotransmitters like norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine.

Hair, Skin and Nail Support:Adequate levels of Vitamin B12 levels promote the production and growth of hair, skin, and nails due to the role B12 plays in cell production.  Low Vitamin B12 has been associated with skin disorders like hyperpigmentation, inflamed and cracked mouth corners and nail discoloration.

Myelin Production:The protective coating around the nerve cells found in the central nervous system have Myelin as a protective coating.  The spinal, cranial and peripheral nerves are protected by myelin sheath produced from Myelin.  A lack of myelin sheath can cause damage to nerves leading to neurological problems.  Vitamin B12 is a major cofactor in the formation of myelin.

Mood Support:Reduced levels of Vitamin B12 have been linked to Depression as have high homocysteine levels.  Studies have found twice the risk of severe depression associated with a Vitamin B12 deficeincy.  Additionally GABA and serotonin, both of which aid in calming and anti-anxiety, require Vitamin B12 to be made.  SAM-e, crucial for mood support and neurological function need both Folate and Vitamin B12 to be metabolized.

Eye and Cardiovascular Health:Folate and Vitamin B12 are both essential for homocysteine metabolism.  Homocysteine is an amino acid found in the blood.  High Homocysteine levels are a known risk factor for Cardiovascular Disease (CVD).  Studies have shown Vitamin B12 supplementation may support lower Homocysteine levels.  Additionally higher Homocysteine levels have also been associated with increased risks of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD).

Conception Support:Studies have found adequate levels of Vitamin B12 are needed for maintaining a healthy pregnancy.  The development of the fetus’s nervous system and brain require B12 levels taken from the mother to insure proper development.  Increased risks of birth defects have been seen when a Vitamin B12 deficiency occurs in the early stages of a pregnancy.  A mother’s Vitamin B12 status may also contribute to an increased risk of miscarriages as well as to premature births.

Metabolism Support:To convert fats and proteins into energy the body need Vitamin B12.  Additionally Vitamin B12 aids in carbohydrate breakdown.  B Vitamins in general are needed for supporting the liver which works with creating and breaking down various hormones that effect metabolism, stress response and detoxification pathways.

DNA Production:Folate and Vitamin B12 availability throughout the body aids in the preservation of DNA integrity.  Without adequate amount of Vitamin B12, Folate is trapped by the body in an unusable form resulting in the inability to synthesize DNA as well as a diminished capacity for methylation reactions elevating the rate of DNA damage increasing risk factors for cancer and diminishing cellular health.

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Omega-3’s Associated With Better Executive Function in Cohort of Young Children

Omega 3 and Childhood Brain DevelopmentNew research has found young children outperformed their peers on a measure of executive function when they had higher levels of Omega’s in their blood.

Over 300 children between the ages of 2 thru 6 years of age were participated in this recent study.  Blood spots tests were used to measure the participants Omega-3 index.  Children with higher blood levels of Essential Fatty Acids were more like to perform better on the standardized test of executive function, called the Dimensional Change Card Sort (DCCS).  This test involved children sorting cards based on the image shape, which represented a different set of rules than previously learned.  Participants were then asked to sort the cards by color.  The tests had a series of conditions or steps to follow.  Each step was given a pass-fail grade.

Older children performed better than younger participants and children with the highest Omega-3 levels performed at the highest levels.  This study confirmed earlier research which showed similar associations in older participants.  So the relationship between executive boosting and Omega-3 is not linked to any one stage of life.  Researchers believe larger study groups are needed to confirm this link.

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Resveratrol May Improve Cholesterol Levels

Resveratrol reduces bad cholesterolA new study found Resveratrol worked better than a placebo to low total cholesterol in adults with high cholesterol.  These findings are in agreement with another clinical trial showing a reduction in total cholesterol after supplementing with 250 mg/day of Resveratrol in participants with Type 2 Diabetes.

71 people participated in this study.  Researchers took measurement of the participant’s Height, Weight, Waist Circumference, Blood Pressure, Total Cholesterol, HDL (high-density lipoprotein) Cholesterol, LDL (low-density lipoprotein) Cholesterol and Triglycerides at the onset of the study.  Participants were given either 100 mg/day of Trans-Resveratrol or a placebo.  The study lasted 2 months at which time post-intervention measurements of the above stated parameters were taken.

The 35 participants who supplemented with Resveratrol showed a significant reduction in both Triglyceride Concentrations and Total Cholesterol when compared to the group supplementing with the placebo.  No significant change in HDL or LDL Cholestrol was seen with the Resveratrol supplementation.  One of the study strengths was the participants had recently been diagnosed with High Cholesterol levels and had no previous treatment for lipid reductions.

Further studies are needed.

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Maternal Probiotic Supplementation Linked to “Beneficial” Infant Weight and Length

Probiotics-Infant -Weight-LengthA recent study found maternal supplementation with a Probiotic appears to be helpful in terms of baby length and weight at 12 months although it does not affect diarrhea incidence.

Over 200 healthy women, at 24 weeks to 28 weeks into their pregnancy participated in this study and were randomly assigned to three groups.  The first group (68 women) received no supplementation –group 2(70 women) received two servings of a daily supplement containing 7.9 grams of protein, minerals and multivitamins-group 3 (70 women) received the same daily supplement as group two enriched with a Probiotic containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium lactis.   The study period began in the third trimester of pregnancy and lasted until at least 2 months after the babies were delivered.

At 12 months, researchers found the infants in group 2 and group 3 had gained more height and weight than those in group 1 (the non supplemented group).  Additionally even though the participants in group 2 and group 3 had higher caloric intakes, the mean maternal weight gain was comparable in all three groups at the time of delivery.  No statistically significant differences were seen between the groups in regards to the incidence of pregnancy-related or adverse fetal outcomes.  Lastly there was no difference in the incidence of infant diarrhea between the three groups.

Researchers did point out a few limitations found in the study.  First, supplement intake was not monitored after the two month postnatal period, nor did they assess any effects continued supplementation may have had on growth in infants who had been breastfed.  Next, researchers did not review the potential impact the supplements had on the composition of breast milk which may have had an effect on infant growth.  Lastly the study population was limited in the sense the participants consisted in women only in their 3rd trimester of pregnancy living in a specific region.

Further studies are needed.

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Omega-3 Consumption and Hypertension

Omega-3 Consumption and HypertensionNew research published in Hypertension shows a high Omega-3 Index, which is a newly established risk measure for heart disease, may be inversely related to Blood Pressure levels in healthy young adults.  This newest study supports a meta-analysis done in 2014 which concluded Blood-Pressure-Lowing effects could be associated with Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids.

Over 2000 healthy adults, ages 25 through 41 participated in this study.  Individuals with a BMI (body mass index) over 35 kg/m, cardiovascular disease and diabetes were excluded from the study.  The average Omega-3 index was 4.58%.  When compared with participants in the lowest Omega-3 index quartile, participants in the highest Omega-3 index quartile had SBP (systolic blood pressure) that was 4 mmHg lower and DBP (diastolic blood pressure) that was 2 mmHg lower. Additionally the difference in blood pressure was seen with only a 2% difference in the Omega-3 index (3.8% vs 5.8%) which suggests the effects seen may have been greater if the Omega-3 index had been higher.  For overall health and reductions in the risk of premature death, the Omega-3 index sets the ideal standard for Omega-3 between 8% and 12%.

For this study a unique tool was used for testing Omega-3 levels.  A blood test, called the Omega-3 index, tests the level of Omega-3 levels in red blood cells with a single drop of blood.  A campaign called the Omega-3 project has also been established to aid in raising awareness, among physicians and their patients, about the health ramifications of low Omega-3 levels.

The American Heart Association believes over 100 million people, nearly half of all adults, in the United States currently have High Blood Pressure which puts them at an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.

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Multivitamin May Have Pregnancy Benefits Over Folic Acid and Iron Alone

Multi Vitamn and PregnancyNew research shows taking a daily multivitamin may provide better benefits for pregnant women than supplementation with iron and folic acid alone.  Preterm births were reduced and increases in infant birth weight were seen in this randomized controlled trial.

Approximately 45,000 women from rural Bangladesh were recruited to participate in this study.  Each woman was assigned to receive either a daily multivitamin or a folic acid-iron supplement.  The participants were followed throughout their pregnancies and at one, three, and six months after delivery.  There were about 14,000 live births in each group.  At 6 months there were not significant differences in reduction in infant mortality between the 2 groups.  However babies born to women in the multi vitamin group were 15% less likely to be born prematurely, 11% less likely to be stillborn and 12% less likely to have a low birth weight.  In addition babies were born 2 – 3 days later in the group who supplemented with the multivitamin vs the folic-iron supplement.

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Vitamin D Protects Against Colorectal Cancer

Vitamin D and Colorectal CancerOver 12,500 individuals took part in 17 cohort studies that were then grouped together and were used as the basis for a recent article evaluating the research on the risk of colorectal cancer and circulating Vitamin D status.  5,706 participants had colorectal cancer and 7,107 participants were used as controls, all had varying levels of circulating 25(OH)D (25 Hydroxy Vitamin D, considered to be the most accurate measure how much Vitamin D is in the body).  Researchers considered Vitamin D deficiency to be below 12 ng/mL or 30 nmol/L, Vitamin D sufficiency was considered to be at levels between 20 – 25 ng/mL or 50-62.5 nmol/L and optimal Vitamin D levels to range between 30 – 40 ng/mL or 75-100 nmol/L.

 There was a 31% increased risk of colorectal cancer when Vitamin D levels fell below 12 ng/mL.  A 19% decreased risk of colorectal development was associated with participants with Vitamin D levels between 30-34.9 ng/mL.  A 27% reduction in the risk of developing colorectal cancer was seen in individuals whose Vitamin D levels were 35 – 40 ng/mL.  In women, researchers found for every increase in circulating Vitamin D levels of 10 ng/mL, there was a decreased risk of developing colorectal cancer of 19%.  Researchers found this inverse relationship of 25(OH)D was statistically significant in women but not in men.

 Colorectal cancers begin in the colon or rectum and usually begin as growths or polyps on the inner lining of the colon or rectum.  This type of cancer, like other types of cancer, may spread very rapidly and imbed in other areas within and outside the rectum and colon.  It is believed that 1 in 23 women and 1 in 21 men in this country alone may develop some type of colorectal cancer in their life.  Over 50,000 individuals die of colorectal cancer yearly.  Risk factors of colorectal cancer include, diet and other lifestyle activities like smoking, family history, obesity, polyp history and type II diabetes.

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