Vitamin B12 is a critical nutrient that protects againstÂ several major health issues. It helps prevent heart disease,
cancer, and birth defects, and helps alleviate depression.Â 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. ThreeÂ vitamins — folic acid and vitamins B12 and B6 — control itsÂ level in your blood. Folic acid (0.5 to five milligrams [mg]Â a day) is the best, lowering homocysteine by 25%. AboutÂ 500 micrograms (Âµg) of vitamin B12 could lower it aÂ further seven percent. Importantly, for those over 60 yearsÂ of age, the major reason for high homocysteine levels is aÂ vitamin B12 deficiency. However, lowering homocysteineÂ blood levels with the B-vitamins does not necessarily meanÂ that these supplements will reduce the risk of heart diseaseÂ and strokes. This is a subject of many medical studies rightÂ now, some of which may come back with conflictingÂ results. What we know for sure is that if you ensure youÂ have optimal levels of these three vitamins, you’re doingÂ yourself a favor.
2. Cancer Prevention
Without vitamin B12, folic acid remains in a form that theÂ body can’t use for normal DNA synthesis. This leads to anÂ increased rate of DNA damage, a risk factor for cancer. In aÂ review by Australian researchers, a good-quality study showed that this damage was minimized in young adultsÂ who took 700 Âµg of folic acid and seven Âµg of vitamin B12 a day in cereal for two months. Then, a study out of JohnsÂ Hopkins University looked at the incidence of breast cancer and blood levels of folic acid, B12, and B6 in about 12,500Â blood specimens. They found that low amounts of vitamin B12 seemed to be associated with an increased risk ofÂ breast cancer among postmenopausal women.
3. Depression Treatment
Low levels of both folic acid and vitamin B12 have beenÂ found in depressed patients. In a recent review of thisÂ 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 respondsÂ to antidepressants.
— Folic acid and B12 are needed by SAMe, an amino acidÂ essential for the brain and its antidepressant effects in aÂ person.
— Growing evidence suggests that low levels of folic acidÂ and B12 mean an increase in blood levels of homocysteineÂ in depressed patients.
4. Neural Tube Defect Prevention
It has been established that folic acid supplements inÂ addition to a varied diet during the month before and theÂ month after conception will result in 60% to 100%Â reductions in neural tube defects. Moreover, low levels ofÂ B12 levels in the blood and amniotic fluid of pregnantÂ women increase the risk of these defects. Pregnant womenÂ should pay close attention to their intake of both B-vitamins.
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