Recently published on Dr Mercola:
Most physicians do not routinely test their patients’ vitamin B12 levels. Even if you have yours tested, the levels considered “normal” in the U.S. may still be too low.
Normal ranges of vitamin B12 in the U.S. are 200 pg/mL to 1100 pg/mL, even though people at the lower end of this spectrum (between 200 pg/mL and 350 pg/mL) often have symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency.
In fact, if your levels are below 600 pg/mL, you might be suffering from B12 deficiency. Integrative medicine practitioner Chris Kresser explains:
“In Japan and Europe, the lower limit for B12 is between 500 to 550 pg/mL, the level associated with psychological and behavioral manifestations such as cognitive decline, dementia and memory loss.
There are four stages of vitamin B12 deficiency:
- Stage 1: Declining B-12 blood levels due to absorption problems
- Stage 2: B12 stores are depleted at the cellular level
- Stage 3: Ability to synthesize new red blood cells is decreased
- Stage 4: Macrocytic anemia is considered a late indicator of B12 deficiency
The symptoms also progress in stages. Some of the initial signs of B12 deficiency include unexplained anemia and neuropsychiatric disorders, and gastrointestinal disorders such as Crohn’s disease or infection with Helicobacter pylori.
If you are also elderly or a vegetarian and have some of these symptoms, a B12 deficiency may also be suspect for causing these problems.
Low levels can also lead to mental fogginess, memory troubles, muscle weakness, and — one of the hallmark signs — fatigue.
Accumulating research also suggests low levels of vitamin B12 may wreak havoc on your bone health.
Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), for instance, revealed that mice deficient in vitamin B12 have growth retardation and fewer osteoblasts (cells responsible for bone formation).
The researchers suggested that lack of vitamin B12 may interfere with growth signaling in the liver and its “downstream effect” on the osteoblasts. Meanwhile, low vitamin B12 status may increase the risk for bone fractures in older men.
f you’re a vegan who does not eat animal products, you are at high risk of deficiency, as vitamin B12 is available in its natural form only in animal food sources. This doesn’t necessarily have to be meat — eggs and dairy are options also. Top foods to include are:
- Wild-caught Alaskan salmon
- Raw grass-fed dairy products
- Organic free-range eggs
- Grass-fed beef and beef liver
- Organic, free-range chicken
Children fed a vegan diet may continue to be deficient in the vitamin for years even after animal foods are added to their diet. It’s extremely important for kids to receive adequate levels of vitamin B12 during these formative years. One study found children fed a vegan diet up until the age of 6 who had marginal vitamin B12 status may have impaired cognitive performance as adolescents.
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