—A Special Report from Victor Marchione, MD
Vitamin B12 is one of those really crucial nutrients. Without it, you can run into all sorts of health problems.
Here are some things you might not know about vitamin B12. It is a member of the vitamin B complex. It contains cobalt, so it’s also called “cobalamin.” B12 is actually synthesized by bacteria. It’s found primarily in meat, eggs, and dairy products. There has been considerable research into plant sources of vitamin B12. Fermented soya products, seaweed, and algae such as spirulina have all been suggested as containing significant B12. However, researchers think that any B12 present in plant foods is likely to be unavailable to humans, so these foods should not be relied upon as reliable sources.
Vitamin B12 is necessary for the synthesis of your red blood cells and the maintenance of your nervous system. When you don’t get enough B12, you can become anemic. You can also suffer from Vitamin B12 neuropathy, which is a degeneration of nerve fibers, causing neurological damage — some pretty alarming symptoms, to say the least!
Now, when you look at the symptoms of B12 deficiency and compare them with the symptoms of diabetes, you’ll find that there isn’t much distinguishing the two. So, it is quite amazing that Dutch scientists were able to recently determine that a common diabetes drug could cause vitamin B12 deficiency.
The research team studied 390 patients with type 2 diabetes, giving metformin to 196 of them three times a day for more than four years. The other 194 patients received a placebo. The researchers found that people who had taken the diabetes drug had a 19% reduction in their vitamin B12 levels compared with people who had taken a placebo, who had almost no B12 change. These lower levels of vitamin B12 in the metformin group became more apparent over time.
The research team would like to see regular checking of vitamin B12 levels during long-term treatment with the drug. They note that, as the symptoms of B12 deficiency include fatigue, mental changes, anemia, and nerve damage, they can easily be misdiagnosed as being due to diabetes and its complications, or to aging. Checking B12 levels could help doctors to assess the real cause and treat it if it was found to be B12 deficiency.
If you’re diabetic, make sure you keep your B12 levels up. You don’t want to be needlessly suffering from fatigue and/or nerve damage, when all you have to do is supplement your diet with B12 foods. If you are deficient, you can also take a B-complex vitamin to boost levels.