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Symptoms as diverse as peripheral neuropathy, muscle weakness, stomach distension, chronic diarrhea, swollen extremities, anxiety, depression, Parkinson ‘s-like symptoms, incontinence, and more. No, it’s not the latest virus. 

These and many other non-specific symptoms are sometimes the first signs of a very easily avoided issue. It is a vitamin deficiency that can affect virtually anyone over 50 and those younger too, regardless of how well you eat. Ironically, the healthier your diet, the more likely you are to need a supplement. And we now know those over 65 absorb far less and need a lot more than we once thought.

I can almost guarantee your doctor hasn’t mentioned this and is likely unaware of your propensity toward deficiency.

What IS this vitamin? It’s Vitamin B12. 

It can lead to significant complications, including an increased risk of stroke, and pernicious anemia and ultimately it is capable of killing you. Not to sound melodramatic, but the facts are the facts, uncommon though it may be.

We used to think that B12 deficiency was only a problem for strict vegans but with increased sanitation of our food supply it has become much more of a problem for all.

B12 is made by bacteria. As our food sources are more and more regulated and safe in many other ways, we’re less likely to get enough B12 in our diet. This is especially true if we are vegetarian or vegan, over 50, pregnant, or a child. We get it most readily from animal products because it’s incorporated into their cells.

In addition, we now know that after 65, we absorb significantly less B12. Therefore seniors need to supplement at a significantly higher level than we once thought.

Several different tests are available. High homocysteine levels, for example, can indicate many things and are considered a good screening tool for inflammation and potential cardiac issues. Increases in homocysteine are also an early sign of B12 deficiency.

The most widely used test and a more direct measure is MMA (methylmalonic acid) levels in the blood.

However, here’s a consideration: B12 is water soluble. Therefore getting too much is not a concern. It’s inexpensive and there are generally accepted guidelines for how much to take. Usually, it’s easier to just supplement than to go to the bother of testing unless you want a homocysteine level for general indications anyway.

Regarding how much to supplement, ALL adults over 50 and pregnant women should take at least 50 mcg/day. For seniors 65 and over, the recommendation is 1,000 mcg/day. There are specific recommendations for infants & children as well. All vegetarians and vegans AND those who don’t commonly eat meat should also supplement 50 mcg/day. Dr. Michael Greger of Nutritionfacts.org has an info sheet I’m attaching for your reference.      

For a reliable source of high-quality B12, check out the favorites in my store.

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