Misleading Information Derived From Vitamin B12 Blood Levels

Misleading Information Derived From Vitamin B12 Blood Levels

Vitamin B12 is an important nutrient that plays a pivotal role in the creation of cells, their effective functioning, the replication of DNA, as well as the creation of various enzymes used by the body. Having a Vitamin B12 deficiency usually results in pernicious anemia as well serious neurological disorders that can lead to irreversible damage if not treated in time. While low levels of B12 in the blood is an adequate indicator that the body’s reserves are diminishing and that a deficiency is developing, the inverse – that normal levels mean that the body has all the Vitamin B12 it needs – is not true.

The problem stems from inactive versions (or analogues) of Vitamin B12, or substances that are chemically very similar to active Vitamin B12, but are inherently inactive and generally ignored by the body. Most blood tests that check B12 levels in patients do not differentiate between active versions and inactive ones, resulting in a situation in which a person’s blood test may show adequate – even abundant – B12 in the blood stream, while very little (or even none) of it is active or being used by the body. It all depends on the exact chemical composition of the B12 in question as the body will only take advantage of the proper versions of this nutrient.

A prime example of this relates to some of the seaweed products available on the market today. Consuming large amounts of seaweed may well result in increased blood levels of Vitamin B12, but the problem is that virtually all of this B12 is inactive, or in a form that the body does not recognize or use. The result is that a blood test would show the person to have perfectly healthy levels of Vitamin B12, though in reality it is all inactive and essentially useless. In fact, this has been studied and it has been firmly established that many people showing normal blood levels of B12 still ended up encountering the neurological symptoms of a deficiency because the B12 in their blood was inactive.

Worse still, it has been shown in a couple studies that these inactive versions of B12 in the blood may actually interfere with or impair the absorption of active B12. The study in question [Carmel R, Karnaze DS, Weiner JM. Neurologic abnormalities in cobalamin deficiency are associated with higher cobalamin 'analogue' values than are hematologic abnormalities. J Lab Clin Med. 1988 Jan;111(1):57-62.] appeared to show that having large amounts of inactive B12 was actually worse than merely lacking the proper levels of active B12.

For this reason, many professionals recommend that those who are at risk of low levels of b12 consider taking a B12 shot.  The good news is that supplemental B vitamin shots have no known serious side effects and as such anyone who is concernte about low levels of vitamin b12 can take them without concern.

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