Could it be B 12? (Pt. 2)

B 12 deficiency not only affects heart health, in their book Sally Pacholok, R.N., B.S.N. and her husband Jeffrey J. Stuart, D.O. go into detail about how it can influence other aspects of health, namely, neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis, mental illness, developmental and learning disabilities in children, autism, cancer, immune function and autoimmune diseases. Similarly, B 12 deficiency can affect the health or our kidneys, a key organ when it comes to heart health. In what follows we will list the effects of low B 12 levels when it comes to learning disabilities, brain health, aging, etc  and focus with more detail on kidney function.

Homocysteine and kidney disease

Individuals in end-stage renal disease are nearly always dangerously high in homocysteine levels. These people’s kidneys no longer function and they are significantly debilitated. Their homocysteine levels puts them at vastly increased risk for strokes, heart attacks and other vascular problems. Doctors trying to lower homocysteine levels of patients on dialysis resort to high doses of folic acid, but folic acid cannot lower homocysteine alone in the absence of sufficient vitamin B 12. In a prospective trial doctors found that the injected form of B 12 reduced plasma homocysteine by an average 32%, even though the patient initially appeared to have adequate B 12 stores.

What is more, there is evidence that homocysteine, in addition to damaging blood vessels, acts as a potent uremic toxin that disrupts normal cellular function. This finding should urge doctors to treat patients with kidney problems, monitor homocysteine, provide oral folic acid and high dose B 12 at the sign of any problem. All dialysis patients should receive high dose methyl B 12 lozenges or injections according to the authors.

Similarly, Alessandra Perna, M.D. and colleagues point out that chronic renal failure patients ‘have a high mortality rate, due to mainly cardiovascular disease, 30 times the risk in the general population. Cardiovascular disease mortality remains 10-20 times higher’. The authors strongly suggest that the role B 12 plays in the astronomical incidence of heart and blood vessel disease needs to be studied, specially taking into account that elevated homocysteine damages the lining of veins and arteries throughout the body, including those in the kidneys. What percentage of patients genetically prone to high homocysteine levels end up with renal failure because excess homocysteine has been scarring and injuring their kidneys for years? Doctors have assumed that high homocysteine is a side effect of kidney failure but they have never contemplated it could be a culprit.

If you have been diagnosed with kidney problems, being properly tested for B 12 deficiency together with the ‘Kidney/Bladder Extract’ can help protect the health of these important organs.

Diet. Rethinking fortified cereals

Fortifying foods like cereals implemented in the United States and Canada has changed the way in which homocysteine levels has affected the population. In one study researchers recently conducted, 53 healthy adults received increasing doses of folic acid over a six moth period. At the beginning of this study the levels of homocysteine in these patients dropped in response to this nutrient. But as the folic acid decreased, homocysteine levels dropped less in response to this vitamin and more in response to B 12. This finding, researchers say, indicates that the ‘fortification policy based on folic acid and B 12, rather than folic acid alone is likely to be much more effective at lowering …homocysteine concentrations with the potential benefits for reduction of risk of vascular disease’.

Only recently have scientists studied the potential ill effects of adding excess folic acid to grains and cereals without B 12. On one hand, the prevalence of B 12 deficiency has since increased , “neural tube defects attributable to B 12 deficiency has tripled in the same period” The ‘National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey’ in the USA presented data showing that with B 12 deficiency, high folic acid is directly related to anemia and cognitive impairment in older adults. In the same way, a study on children born to mothers with the combination high folic acid, low B 12 ‘had higher truncal adiposity and insulin resistance‘ and they cite research where they show that B 12 deficiencies is increasing in countries with mandatory folic acid fortification and affecting all ages.

Studies are urgently needed, the researchers said. Fortifying foods with B 12 sounds good but it is not as easy as it sounds because it is hard to absorb and would require very large doses in the grain to correct the deficiency. There is also the problem with the current daily recommended intake (DRI) or RDA for B 12, which in the author’s opinion is much too low for health and prevention of disease.

Lastly, the U.S. uses cyano-cobalamin rather than the active form of B 12 methycobalamin. Until all of these issues are worked out, the authors believe fortification would be a great waste of economic resources and it would offer a sense of false protection for many people.

B 12 and developmental disabilities or learning problems in children

The authors mention that the most common cause of B 12 deficiency in infants and young children is maternal dietary deficiency. Women with B 12 deficiency are at higher risk of giving birth to children with potentially disabling or fatal birth defects. Any infant with an unexplained developmental disability should be screened for B 12 deficiency. B 12 deficiency in infants and young children frequently causes symptoms similar to those seen in autism. There is a critical window of opportunity for treating B 12 deficiency before permanent cognitive changes or injury results. The same effects have been reported in people in their twenties even toddlers.

B 12 deficiency can destroy your nerves at any age. In young children, these symptoms often baffle doctors, specially when the blood count is normal and symptoms are subtle, the result can be a dangerous delay in receiving treatment.

B 12 deficiency and aging 

In “Postgraduate Medicine” T.S. Dharmarajan, M.D. and Edward P. Norkus, Ph.D. assert that “Vitamin B 12 deficiency affects about one quarter of the U.S. population and is more common in the elderly and in adults with several predisposing conditions…Health care professionals need to recognize that vitamin B 12 deficiency is often undetected and can lead to devastating and irreversible complications. Early treatment is effective and prevents disability”

Seniors are a high risk group for severe B 12 deficiency. Between 15% and 40% of people over sixty have low serum B 12 levels and there is also critical window of opportunity for treating B 12 deficiency before permanent cognitive changes or injury result. The most striking piece of information is that there is mounting evidence of the link between B 12 deficiency and Alzheimer’s disease.

According to neurologist Sydney Walker III, M.D., many patients with Alzheimer’s and other dementias are actually suffering from problems that can be corrected”.  Up to 60% of patients labeled as having dementias actually have treatable and reversible disorders, and in many cases that disorder its B 12. The symptoms of B 12 deficiency include confusion, memory loss, personality changes, paranoia, depression, and other behaviors that look like dementia. In one reported case, a patient with dementia recovered completely when doctors discovered and treated his B 12 deficiency.

The degree of recovery may depend on how long the person had B 12 deficiency and other conditions. Studies have shown that people with low levels of B 12 are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s and patients with the disease and low levels of B 12 showed more behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia than patients with normal levels.

More research has shown that low B 12 causes the brain to atrophy, probably disturbing the integrity of brain myelin or by causing inflammation. The authors recommend even in the last stages of dementia, to test the individual, then supplement with a high dose of 2,000 mcg-5,000 mcg lozenges daily and/or have the doctor perform a trial of injectable B 12. There is a possibility it could slow down or halt the progression of the dementia or even reverse some symptoms. This information can be used to treat other members of the family as B 12 deficiency runs in the family.

Other B 12 ills that mascarade as aging are nervous system impairment that can cause tremors, handwriting difficulties and other symptoms serious enough to resemble the early stages of Parkinson’s. Vitamin B 12 needs to be ruled out in Parkinson’s type symptoms and in patients already diagnosed with the disease. Because Parkinson’s and B 12 deficiency share some of the same signs and symptoms and there is no diagnostic test that can confirm Parkinson’s, it only makes sense to investigate and rule out B 12 deficiency.

Since B 12 deficiency affects all the nerves, it can affect the nerves of the eyes too. Diabetics can have failing eyesight also caused by B 12 deficiency but may be wrongly attributed to age or macular degeneration or diabetic eye damage.

B 12 deficiency a cause of frequent falls and fall related trauma

Frequent falls is the most common cause of fatal injuries among people over 65 causing 10,000 deaths a year. B 12 deficiency attacks the nervous system, especially the nerves in the lower part of the body, it damages the myelin of the nerves making it harder to carry messages. Sufferers feel a weakness, balance problems, leg and back pains and numbness in hands and feet. B 12 deficiency can also cause visual problems, vision loss, dizziness, vertigo, postural hypotension, all of which increase the chance for falls.

Doctors often mistake this for strokes. The authors report that so many cases of elderly people who had developed tingling, pain and weakness to the point they couldn’t walk, when the doctor identified it as a B 12 deficiency and they were treated within a month, they could walk again. Similarly, caught in the early stages of near paralysis treatment with B 12 can reverse the symptoms within a few months.

The authors argue that it is unconceivable that hospitals don’t routinely provide B 12 screening for patients suffering from weakness or repeated falls, specially taking into account that it is a mere $100 rather than the costs of CT scans, etc which are more expensive and don’t solve the problem. Falls can also cause hip fractures. Not all falls stem from B 12 deficiency but a big percentage do. Pain, numbness, weakness, dizziness, difficulty walking and falls are all signs that B 12 could be the case.

B 12 and osteoporosis

There is a strong link between B 12 deficiency and osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is the thining of the bones mineral density. Studies have shown that those people low in B 12 and high homocysteine levels therefore, had four times more likelihood of having osteoporosis. This, together with the high risk for falls in people deficient in B 12 makes it more crucial to make screenings for B 12.

Is it multiple sclerosis or is it B 12 deficiency? 

The symptoms of B 12 deficiency mimic those of multiple sclerosis, they both damage the myelin on the nerves causing lesions or disease in the brain and spinal cord. Scientists report intriguing evidence tentatively implicating low B 12 levels in the development or exacerbation of MS, meaning B 12 deficiency could possibly be contributing to the disease.

35,000 Americans have MS, which indicates that a significant number are likely to have B 12 deficiency. Both diseases have the same symptoms: numbness, gait problems, pins and needles, depression, memory loss, dementia, weight loss, tremors, fatigue, pain, incontinence and vision loss. Both MS and B 12 deficiency damage the myelin causing short circuiting of nerve impulses. The only difference is that with B 12 it can be reversed. Accurate diagnosis requires ordering a battery of tests that can conclusively prove and rule out B 12 deficiency. Even is MS if the diagnosis, B 12 should be tested too.

Many physicians lack even the most basic knowledge about B 12 deficiency. What is alarming about MS according to the authors is that the steroids commonly used to treat MS can normalize the anemia and enlarged cells characteristic of B 12, while allowing the neurological damage to continue unchecked. Thus, they think doctors should rule out B 12 deficiency in all patients suspected of having MS or diagnosed with it. Failing to do so is negligence. Leading scientists are exploring the possibility that even classic MS may involve a defect in B 12 metabolism.

Other conditions 

B 12 deficiency suppresses the immune system’s ability to fight off viruses and bacteria.

Also, B 12 plays a crucial role in myelin formation. B 12 deficiency attacks the nerves stripping them of their protective myelin coating and disrupting the communication between cells in the brain and other parts of the nervous system. This damage can make you lose your balance, develop multiple sclerosis-like symptoms or suffer shooting pains or numbness in your feet, arms and legs like we  have seen but this damage can affect nervous system in other ways. Because nerve cells in your brain control how you feel, think and behave, B 12 deficiency can cause severe mental illness including depression, paranoia and even symptoms resembling schizophrenia.  Studies have shown that B 12 deficiency doubles the risk of severe depression. B 12 deficiency is not the cause of most mental problems but it clearly plays a role in a number of cases. Because physicians don’t screen for B 12 deficiency we don’t really know the incidence of B 12 deficiency in mental illness. In bipolar disorder, B 12 levels are so low that the brain cannot function correctly.

Over a century ago, in the 1900’s doctors discovered that pernicious anemia (one form of B 12 deficiency) caused mental illnesses of all kinds like dementia, delirium, depression, hallucinations, hysteria, paranoia, mania, etc. All of these conditions were termed ‘megaloblastic madness”. In the late 1920’s doctors first learned to treat pernicious anemia with success by giving patients large amounts of raw liver. How come at the turn of the new century with the benefit of more than one hundred years of research and documentation proving that B 12 deficiency causes psychiatric illness, very few mentally ill patients are being evaluated for underlying B 12 deficiency? The authors show their concern that serum B 12 is not being universally screened for in psychiatric facilities.

Mental disorders can make you more vulnerable to B 12 deficiency, because they increase the odds you are eating poorly or taking drugs that compromise B 12 metabolism. It is not part of the most standard psychiatric evaluations or admissions and it is not required for medical clearance.

Lastly,  B 12 deficiency has a role to play in cancer, where deficiency appears to promote its development. In the case of surgeries, being deficient in B 12 makes the simplest of surgical or dental procedures dangerous, even deadly. Nitrous oxide, a common anesthetic agent inactivates B 12 in the body. In the case of infertility, B 12 deficiency contributes to male and female infertility, even impotence in men.

Conclusion

In June 2009, the CDC reported B 12 deficiency is present in 1 in every 31 people over the age of 50. What is most alarming is that this number under-reports the true incidence of B 12 deficiency. There is much work left to do to bring awareness about B 12 deficiency. Change can start with you, if you learn you are deficient in B 12, you can get the proper tests and start treatment. B 12 together with the products from ‘Healthy Hearts Club‘ can ensure that you keep many terrible diseases at bay. Even if you find out you are not deficient in B 12, there is still a lot you can do to help bring awareness about this disease.

Thanks for reading.

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