Vitamin B12 is a critical nutrient that protects against several major health issues. It helps prevent heart disease,
cancer, and birth defects, and helps alleviate depression. Let’s take a closer look.
1. Heart Disease Prevention
A high level of homocysteine is a big risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease. Three vitamins — folic acid and vitamins B12 and B6 — control its level in your blood. Folic acid (0.5 to five milligrams [mg] a day) is the best, lowering homocysteine by 25%. About 500 micrograms (µg) of vitamin B12 could lower it a further seven percent. Importantly, for those over 60 years of age, the major reason for high homocysteine levels is a vitamin B12 deficiency. However, lowering homocysteine blood levels with the B-vitamins does not necessarily mean that these supplements will reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes. This is a subject of many medical studies right now, some of which may come back with conflicting results. What we know for sure is that if you ensure you have optimal levels of these three vitamins, you’re doing yourself a favor.
2. Cancer Prevention
Without vitamin B12, folic acid remains in a form that the body can’t use for normal DNA synthesis. This leads to an increased rate of DNA damage, a risk factor for cancer. In a review by Australian researchers, a good-quality study showed that this damage was minimized in young adults who took 700 µg of folic acid and seven µg of vitamin B12 a day in cereal for two months. Then, a study out of Johns Hopkins University looked at the incidence of breast cancer and blood levels of folic acid, B12, and B6 in about 12,500 blood specimens. They found that low amounts of vitamin B12 seemed to be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer among postmenopausal women.
3. Depression Treatment
Low levels of both folic acid and vitamin B12 have been found in depressed patients. In a recent review of this relationship, researchers made the following observations: — Adequate blood levels of both folic acid and vitamin B12 may be important in how well a depressed patient responds to antidepressants.
— Folic acid and B12 are needed by SAMe, an amino acid essential for the brain and its antidepressant effects in a person.
— Growing evidence suggests that low levels of folic acid and B12 mean an increase in blood levels of homocysteine in depressed patients.
4. Neural Tube Defect Prevention
It has been established that folic acid supplements in addition to a varied diet during the month before and the month after conception will result in 60% to 100% reductions in neural tube defects. Moreover, low levels of B12 levels in the blood and amniotic fluid of pregnant women increase the risk of these defects. Pregnant women should pay close attention to their intake of both B-vitamins.
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