Vitamin B12 Summary   3 comments

At the urging of my mother, I started my research into the results of my nutrient tests with vitamin B12. Between Wikipedia and WebMD I found more than enough info for now. I’m just going to hit some major points here, not pointlessly summarize these resources since you can read them better for yourself if you should so desire.

The first thing that I think is important for anyone to keep in mind when evaluating test results is: it’s just one data point. As an environmental engineer I deal with lab reports all of the time (and lots of other forms of data), and one data point has little or no meaning. People generally tend to see a number and take it as fact; but numbers are rarely fact. At work I consider one data point to just give the general ballpark (positive versus negative, screaming hot versus clean), and it usually raises more questions than it answers. Two data points give an idea of “noise”, the amount of natural variation between two independent readings, and confirm the first data point. It’s not until I have three data points that I would even begin to draw conclusions about trends or averages.

Back to the vitamin B12. I don’t seem to display any of the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, and I can’t compare my results to the reference range given in WebMD since the lab didn’t measure concentration but used some weird cellular growth method that results in a percentage of optimal growth. My results were 11% relative to a reference range of at least 14%; but I don’t really know what that means.

The thing that stands out the most to me is that vitamin B12 deficiency is really rare because the liver typically stores at least a year’s worth of the vitamin. As in: you could consume no vitamin B12 for a year before you would be deficient. That means this is a chronic problem. I’ve never had stomach surgery, don’t drink a lot of alcohol, don’t have an autoimmune disorder that I know of, don’t have high levels of protein in my blood (that’s based on several years of annual physicals), have never taken proton-pump inhibitors, have never taken birth control pills, don’t smoke or use nitrous oxide, and I’m not taking antibiotics or potassium supplements. I cannot rule out pernicious anemia, hyperthyroidism, infection by a parasite, problems with the small intestine, or insufficient consumption in food. Actually, I’ve been fairly sure that I have some problems with my intestines for several years now, so hopefully that’s the cause (it’s the least scary cause).

The second thing that stands out to me is that vitamin B12 is essential for the nervous system, long term deficiency can cause “severe and irreversible damage, especially to the brain and nervous system” (Wikipedia), and according to WebMD women with B12 deficiencies in early pregnancy have been found to have higher rates of children with neural tube defects. So this is serious, and I really need to be diligent taking my new supplements for now.

As far as food, both Wikipedia and WebMD say that everyone except strict vegans should be getting enough from food no problem. I’m most definitely not vegan. I regularly eat fortified cereals and while I don’t eat meat every day, I’d say I eat meat 3-4 times per week. Apparently while eggs are a good source, they also contain a factor that blocks absorption. Maybe I should start eating termites 🙂

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Posted August 24, 2010 by mayakey in health, pre-pregnancy

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3 responses to “Vitamin B12 Summary

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  1. Thank you. I hope you will be retested periodically until your levels are normal. I know you don’t like needles but you are better safe than sorry.
    I am sure somewhere in the world they eat termites. I didn’t know they were high in B12.

  2. Not much Vitamin B12 is absorbed across the wall of the colon so therefore it is essential that humans get B12 from animal foods

  3. Pingback: Choline Summary « Love Knowledge Zeal & Fortitude

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