Sunday, 4 December 2016

Know the Signs of B12 Deficiency and Top B12 Benefits

Pregnant women are advised to ensure their vitamin B12 stores are adequate, as new research shows a deficiency could be harmful to unborn children, setting them up for low birth weight as well as type 2 diabetes.

November 21, 2016 

Vitamin B12 Rich Foods

Story at-a-glance

  • Pregnant women were recently given new information in regard to how to help ensure optimum health in their child: Make sure you’re not low in vitamin B12
  • Babies whose mothers had a B12 deficiency during pregnancy may have increased odds of developing type 2 diabetes, as well as other serious metabolic problems, later in life
  • Symptoms of low B12 levels may include poor memory, shortness of breath, depression, yellow skin, a smooth tongue and tingling in your extremities
  • Vitamin B12 is essential, meaning it must come from food or supplementation
  • Vitamin B12 is helpful for metabolizing folate, carbohydrates and fat, helps to form red blood cells, produces adrenal hormones and is involved in many other functions
By Dr. Mercola
Pregnant women were recently given new information in regard to optimizing their child's health: Make sure you're getting enough vitamin B12.
A recent study revealed that babies whose moms had a B12 deficiency during pregnancy may later have higher odds of developing type 2 diabetes, as well as other serious metabolic problems.1
If you've ever gotten "that tired feeling" and general lack of energy, you may not realize you have a vitamin B12 deficiency. It can go undetected for years; in fact, around 15 percent of the U.S. population has this condition.
Several seemingly unrelated symptoms, however, such as poor memory, shortness of breath, loss of taste and smell, depression and tingling in your extremities, may be an indication that getting your B12 levels checked might be a good idea.
Interestingly, Mary Todd Lincoln, who had a reputation for being emotionally and psychologically unbalanced, had these symptoms and several more that scientists now theorize may have been the reason for her behavior. Doctors of the time called it pernicious anemia, which is a B-vitamin-related malady.2
Found in animal-based foods such as eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, meat, fish and poultry, vitamin B12, aka cobalamin, also comes in supplement form, and it's added to foods such as breakfast cereal. It's called "essential" because your body can't produce it; it must come from an outside source.

Why Is B12 Necessary?

Vitamin B12 is vital for many functions throughout your body. It:
Produces adrenal hormones
Metabolizes folate3
fat and carbohydrates
Forms red blood cells
Aids in iron absorption
Helps ensure proper circulation
Aids in digestion
Supports nervous system function
Optimizes nerve growth and function

How Much Vitamin B12 Do You Need?

The National Institutes of Health's (NIH)4 daily recommendation for vitamin B12 supplementation is as follows, with incrementally higher doses as children mature:
But many people aren't getting enough. This one vitamin is responsible, at least in part, for helping to make DNA, as well as red blood cells and nerves, says Harvard Health:
"And therein lies the problem: Some people don't consume enough vitamin B12 to meet their needs, while others can't absorb enough, no matter how much they take in. As a result, vitamin B12 deficiency is relatively common, especially among older people.
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey estimated that 3.2 [percent] of adults over age 50 have a seriously low B12 level, and up to 20 [percent] may have a borderline deficiency."5
You don't have to worry about a vitamin B12 overdose because it's water soluble, so "your body takes what it needs and flushes out the rest," according to The Washington Post.6

B12 Deficiency — A Vicious Cycle

Ponnusamy Saravanan, Ph.D., associate clinical professor at the University of Warwick Medical School in the U.K., and senior author of the featured study, said scientists already knew that pregnant women with low B12 levels often have higher body mass index (BMI) and have babies that have low birth weight.
Studies reveal these babies also have greater insulin resistance as children, which automatically sets up their potential for having type 2 diabetes later in life.
The study team wondered if the symptoms shown in babies whose mothers were low in B12 had anything to do with leptin, the so-called "satiety hormone" that triggers your realization when you're actually full.
Research shows that knowing when to stop eating is a crucial factor in maintaining a healthy weight. The problem occurs when overweight individuals' levels of leptin increase, which masks satiety, leading to constant overeating because they still "feel" hungry. This phenomenon is called leptin resistance.
It's a vicious cycle because even eating an adequate meal may not satisfy your hunger. So slowly, you gain more weight, become increasingly leptin resistant and, therefore, become more insulin resistant. Meanwhile, your risk of developing type 2 diabetes escalates.

More Findings From the Study

Saravanan's team analyzed 91 blood samples of mothers and their newborn babies to test their vitamin B12 levels. At the same time, they looked at their fat tissue samples and 83 tissue samples from placentas.
Sure enough, the scientists found that the babies belonging to moms with a vitamin B12 deficiency more often than not had leptin levels that were higher than normal. Saravanan explained:
"The nutritional environment provided by the mother can permanently program the baby's health.
We know that children born to under or overnourished mothers are at an increased risk of health problems such as type 2 diabetes, and we also see that maternal B12 deficiency may affect fat metabolism and contribute to this risk. This is why we decided to investigate leptin, the fat cell hormone."7
The scientists hypothesized that when B12 was not adequately represented in expectant mothers, the hormone responsible for programming the leptin gene in their babies was affected. While the researchers aren't sure which mechanisms determine this outcome, they have a few ideas.
Co-study author Adaikala Antonysunil, associate professor and research fellow, said that either low vitamin B12 causes the fetus to accumulate fat, leading to more leptin, or the B12 deficiency changes the mother's genes that make the leptin.
Because B12 is involved in methylation reactions that can affect whether genes are turned on and off, it's probably the latter. If they're right, the researchers believe the current U.S. recommendation for B12 levels for expectant moms should be increased.

Signs of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

One-quarter of U.S. adults suffer from low vitamin B12 levels. One of the hallmarks of low B12 is fatigue, which may mean you don't have enough blood oxygen to supply energy. Health Eternally notes:
"Technically speaking though, vitamin B12 does not contain any 'real' energy all on its own. However, if you have megaloblastic anemia, which is famous for making you feel tired and weak, then a sudden increase in B12 can certainly make it seem like you have all the energy in the world!
That's because vitamin B12 is critical in the production of red blood cells, which transport oxygen all throughout your body. Without oxygen, you die! So it's not hard to see how oxygenated blood can make you feel very energetic and alive."8
Anxiousness and depression may occur because a B12 shortage also depresses the brain chemical serotonin, a neurotransmitter linked to your brain's pleasure centers, and dopamine, the mood regulator registering memory and mood.
Unless there's an intervention, low B12 levels may even lead to paranoia, delusions and hallucinations. Other signs include:
A numb, tingly, "pins and needles" sensation in your hands, legs or feet, which may indicate possible nerve damage.
Yellow skin, an indication that your red blood cells are degrading, which releases a yellow pigment in the process.
A swollen, "smooth" tongue with fewer papillae "bumps" containing taste buds.
One patient recovered completely after receiving B12 treatment.9
Unstable, wobbly and dizzy feelings, which are signs there may not be enough oxygen in your blood, related to low B12.
Blurry or double vision, or shadows in your field of vision, caused by optic nerve damage from a B12 deficiency.
Memory loss, which may be a red flag when it has no other potential cause.

What Causes a Vitamin B12 Deficiency?

There are a number of key reasons for a B12 deficiency, which doctors sometimes overlook. Individuals at risk for B12 deficiency include:
Vegetarians and vegans, who are susceptible because B12 is derived from animal products.
People who regularly drink alcohol, because B12 is stored in your liver.
Anyone with an autoimmune disease like Crohn's or celiac, which may prevent your body from being able to absorb B12.
People who drink more than four cups of coffee daily, who have around 15 percent less B vitamins, including B12, than non-coffee consumers.10
Those who've had gastric bypass surgery and therefore have altered digestive systems, which may be a factor.
People exposed to nitrous oxide, aka laughing gas, which can wipe out whatever B12 reserves you may have in your body.
Older adults, because as you grow older, your ability to produce intrinsic factor decreases.
Intrinsic factor is a protein made by stomach cells that's necessary for B12 absorption.
H. pylori (Helicobacter pylori) bacteria can also destroy them, preventing B12 absorption.11
People who take antacids, which have a tendency to interfere with B12 absorption, especially over time.
Patients who take Metformin for low blood sugar, as the drug interferes with B12 absorption.
Anyone taking a proton-pump inhibitor like Prevacid or Nexium or H2 blocker such as Pepcid or Zantac.12
Vitamin B12 is present in its natural form only from animal sources. While vegans are urged to augment their B12 intake by stocking up on nutritional yeastcoconut oil and fortified coconut milk, a strict vegan or even vegetarian diet is not recommended. In fact, there are cases in which a deficiency causes brain abnormalities.
A deficiency can be corrected by weekly shots of vitamin B12 or daily high-dose B12 supplements, and a mild case with a standard supplement or increased intake of vitamin B12-rich foods.13 A more detailed list of the B12 in specific foods can be found at NIH.14

Friday, 2 December 2016

The secret to staying young is broccoli and cabbage

Maybe we should be focusing less on Botox and more on broccoli. That’s according to scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, who published a recent study in the journal Cell Metabolism, about the aging process...
Nov 30, 2016 9:59 a.m. ET

Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, who published a recent study in the journal Cell Metabolism, about the aging process, found that when they fed older mice drinking water with a high dose of a natural compound called nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN), which is found in broccoli, cucumbers, cabbage, edamame and avocado, the older mice enjoyed benefits including better skeletal muscle, liver and eye function, insulin sensitivity, immune function, appropriate body weight and physical activity levels, according to the science website Science Daily.


“We have shown a way to slow the physiologic decline that we see in aging mice,” said one of the researchers, Shin-ichiro Imai, a professor of developmental biology and of medicine, in Science Daily. “Since human cells rely on this same energy production process, we are hopeful this will translate into a method to help people remain healthier as they age.”
Some good news: Americans have already been increasing their consumption of vegetables, including broccoli, in recent years.
Americans consumed about 8 pounds of broccoli per capita in 2012, according to the United States Agriculture Department. That’s almost double the amount they ate in 1990.

And Americans will keep buying more vegetables in the coming years, according to the research firm Mintel; in 2015, they spent about $54.6 billion on veggies and will increase their spending 13% to reach almost $62 billion in 2020.
“An emphasis on freshness, convenience, and nutrition can help propel sales of fresh vegetables, especially fresh-cut salad which benefits from strong product innovation,” Mintel’s researchers wrote in their May 2016 vegetables report.
That said, Americans still struggle with weight and healthy eating.
Nearly 40% of adults and more than 17% of youth in the U.S. were obese between 2013 and 2014; 10 years before, about 32% of adults and 17% of youth were obese.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define obesity in terms of body-mass index (BMI). Those with a BMI of 30 or higher are considered obese.
The U.S. Dietary guidelines recommend that individuals eat a variety of vegetables throughout the week so they’re consuming a variety of nutrients, including dark green vegetables, red and orange vegetables, legumes and starchy vegetables.
For an adult consuming 2,000 calories a day, the guidelines recommend a two and a half cup equivalent serving of veggies a day.
Broccoli has other benefits besides its anti-aging qualities, including high levels of fiber and folate, which can help digestive systems stay regular and even reduce the probability of some cancers, such as colon cancer, said Despina Hyde, a registered dietitian and diabetes educator in the weight management center at New York University’s Langone Medical Center.
Also, because vegetables are low in calories, they are a great tool in weight-management because they still help people eating them to feel full, she said.
Cooking vegetables at home is often better than ordering them from a restaurant, because it’s possible to control the amount of butter, salt and oil on them, she said.
She also recommended buying frozen vegetables, which are affordable and sometimes even have more nutrients than fresh veggies, which age and lose nutrients as they travel across the country or the world. When vegetables are frozen, the nutrients get locked in because the vegetables don’t age.
Adding vegetables to pasta dishes, stir fries, omelets, pizza and sandwiches are all good ways to get the recommended servings, she said.

See also:

  1. MUST READ: This vegetable defeats cancer at the genetic level
  2. MUST READ: This Vegetable Stalks Aging and Cancer Like a Guard Dog
  3. Cabbage - A super alternative to brocolli
  4. The secret to staying young is broccoli and cabbage.
  5. The Remarkable Health Benefits of Broccoli, and How to Maximize Its Cancer-Fighting Potential
  6. Your broccoli doesn’t have much nutritional value if you don’t do this
  7. MUST READ: More Reasons to Eat Your Broccoli
  8. 10 Health Benefits of Brocolli

Beware: Biotin Supplements May Alter Your Thyroid Test

Make sure you avoid this vitamin for at least a day or two when getting your thyroid tested as it can produce false highs or lows. Other than that, it can be useful for helping to regulate your blood sugar and healthy LDL cholesterol levels, and the proper function of your nervous system. Do you really need to take a supplement?

November 21, 2016 

Biotin Supplement

Story at-a-glance

  • Biotin plays a role in energy production, and is commonly used to remediate neurological problems, hair loss (alopecia) and skin conditions (such as acne and eczema) associated with a lack of certain enzymes
  • Recent research suggests biotin may be a helpful adjunct in the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS), by improving myelin repair and facilitating cellular energy production
  • Taking a biotin supplement can throw off your thyroid test results, producing false highs or lows, so avoid taking any biotin supplements at least a day or two before your thyroid test to ensure accurate results
By Dr. Mercola
Biotin (vitamin B7) — an essential water-soluble micronutrient — is a member of the B complex group of vitamins.1 Other names sometimes used for biotin include vitamin H, coenzyme R and d-biotin.2
Biotin plays a role in energy production, and since your body does not synthesize biotin, you must obtain it from your food. It's commonly used to remediate neurological problems, hair loss (alopecia) and skin conditions (such as acne and eczema) associated with a lack of certain enzymes.
Adequate intake levels are set at 5 micrograms (mcg) per day for infants and 30 mcg for adults,3 and since this amount is fairly easy to obtain from food, deficiencies are thought to be rare.
For example, 50 grams (gm) of butter (about 3.5 tablespoons) or 50 grams of sunflower seeds contain 47 mcg and 33 mcg of biotin respectively. Still, some take high-dose biotin supplements to improve their hair, skin or nails, and it's important to realize that this can skew test results for thyroid hormones.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Biotin Insufficiency

While more rare than other nutrient deficiencies, biotin insufficiency or deficiency can certainly occur. Since biotin is water-soluble, your body will not store it. Hence, your intake must remain consistent. Pregnant women are also at heightened risk for insufficiency or deficiency, which could have adverse effects on the developing fetus.
Hair loss and red, scaly rashes (especially on your face) are common signs you may need more biotin. Other signs and symptoms of biotin deficiency include:
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Muscle pain
  • Paresthesia
In your body, biotin plays an important role in:4,5
Metabolizing fats, carbohydrates and amino acids
Proper function of your nervous system
Maintaining healthy LDL cholesterol
Regulating blood sugar
Strengthening hair and reversing hair loss by reacting with enzymes to make amino acids, building blocks for proteins such as keratin, which your hair is made of
Strengthening your nails. In one study, 2.5 mcg of biotin per day for at least 6 months improved nail thickness by 25 percent6
Maintaining healthy skin
Preventing age-related cognitive impairment or decline

Biotin May Benefit Multiple Sclerosis Patients

Interestingly, recent research suggests biotin may be a helpful adjunct in the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS).7 As reported by Authority Nutrition:8
"In MS, the protective covering of nerve fibers in the brain, spinal cord and eyes is damaged or destroyed. This protective sheath is called myelin, and biotin is thought to be an important factor in producing it. A pilot study9 in 23 people with progressive MS tested the use of high doses of biotin.
Over 90 percent of participants had some degree of clinical improvement … Randomized controlled trials have been carried out in people with progressive MS10,11,12 The final results have not been published, but the preliminary results are promising."
As explained by Multiple Sclerosis News Today:13
"[Biotin] acts in MS by increasing a route of cellular energy production, protecting against the breakdown of nerve cell axons. It also activates enzymes that are setting the pace on myelin repair by being involved in the production of myelin constituents."
In one of these trials, nearly 13 percent of the patients diagnosed with progressive MS reported improvement after taking a pharmaceutical grade, high-dose biotin (referred to as MD1003) for nine months.
None of the patients taking a placebo reported improvements. After two years, 15.4 percent of the treatment group demonstrated less disability. According to professor Ayman Tourbah:14
"Full results of the MS-SPI study are especially remarkable. This is the first time that a drug has reversed the progression of the disease in a statistically significant proportion of patients.
In addition, if we look at the mean Expanded Disability Scale (EDSS) change, the data compare very favorably with all previous trials that looked at the same endpoint. Almost no progression was observed in patients treated with MD1003 for 24 months, and this has never been observed before …
Results … point to the fact that targeting neuron and oligodendrocyte metabolism represents a promising and novel disease modifying therapy approach in progressive MS, particularly in patients with a not-active progressive disease."

Beware: Biotin Supplements May Alter Thyroid Tests 

For all its benefits, there are drawbacks to biotin supplements that you really need to be aware of. As it turns out, taking a biotin supplement could throw off your thyroid test results, producing false highs or lows. As reported in Endocrine News:15
"The physician had been treating the patient's hypothyroidism successfully with levothyroxine for some time, when suddenly her free T4 levels spiked despite a normal thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) level.
The physician referred the patient to [Dr.] Cary N. Mariash, professor of clinical medicine at Indiana University in Indianapolis, where additional laboratory tests had inconsistent results: her free T4 and total T3 were elevated, but her total T4, T4 index and TSH were normal.
Fortunately, Mariash could clear up the confusion by asking the patient a simple question: 'Are you taking biotin?' Yes, she replied, she had recently started taking 10 mg a day in hopes of improving her hair and nails.
Her tests returned to normal when she stopped taking biotin. The problem had nothing to do with the patient's thyroid — the biotin was interfering with the tests.
Mariash presented this case at the recent International Thyroid Congress because he has recently encountered several patients whose abnormal thyroid test results were caused by taking biotin and 'most endocrinologists don't know about this problem.'"

If Thyroid Test Results Are Mismatched to Clinical Observations, Consider Biotin Interference

The ramifications of this kind of test result interference could be severe. As noted by Dr. Carol Greenlee, an endocrinologist in Colorado, people may be treated for hyperthyroidism, Grave's disease or even cancer, even though they do not actually have a thyroid problem — they're simply taking large doses of biotin, which is throwing off the test results.
The reason for this discrepancy in the test results is related to the fact that most immunoassays rely on biotin–streptavidin attraction, and when your blood sample contains mega-doses of biotin, it interferes in this process, rendering the results either artificially high or low. According to Endocrine News:
"In the case of competitive immunoassays — usually used for low molecular weight targets (such as T4, T3 and cortisol) — biotin interference causes a falsely high result. In immunometric (sandwich) assays, it gives a falsely low result.
Other characteristics of the assay can also make a difference. For instance, a longer incubation time increases the opportunity for interference. Different assays for various analytes, even from the same manufacturer, can therefore vary in their susceptibility to biotin interference …
[Co-director of the endocrine laboratory at the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Stefan] Grebe says it may fall to the physician ordering the test to be vigilant: 'When your lab results don't make sense in terms of the clinical picture, or in terms of the constellation of lab results you have received, you should always think first of an assay interference — one of which is biotin — before you think of really exotic reasons for this to have happened, such as TSH-secreting pituitary tumors.'"
The remedy is simple. Since biotin is water-soluble, it flushes out of your body fairly quickly. Simply avoid taking any biotin supplements at least a day or two before your thyroid test to ensure accurate results. Biotin does not actually alter your thyroid hormones, it only affects the test results, so it's not contraindicated for thyroid health in general.

Dietary Sources of Biotin

Also, the concern with biotin altering test results refers to high-dose biotin supplements only, not food, and since biotin is readily found in many foods, this is your best bet if you believe you need more of it. That said, biotin supplements are, in and of themselves, quite safe, even at the mega-doses used in MS studies, which used upwards of 300 mg per day.
There are two forms of biotin found in food: free biotin (found in plants) and protein-bound biotin (found in protein-based animal foods). Your body can use either of these forms, but the free version is more readily absorbed as it does not need to be converted into a bioavailable form. Foods high in free biotin include:16,17
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Green peas and lentils
  • Walnuts and pecans
  • Carrots, cauliflower and mushrooms
  • Avocados
Protein-bound biotin is found in:
  • Organic, free-range/pastured eggs yolks
  • Organ meats such as liver and kidneys
  • Dairy products such as milk, butter and cheese (ideally organic raw milk from grass-fed cows)
  • Seafood (just make sure it's low in mercury and other contaminants, and wild caught, not farmed)
Pastured egg yolk is one of the best source of biotin, yet many warn against eggs, for the fact that the egg white contains avidin, a glycoprotein that binds to biotin. The idea is that eating egg whites could potentially lead to a biotin deficiency. However, cooking the egg white will deactivate the avidin, making this a non-issue. (Biotin, on the other hand, is unaffected by cooking.)
Moreover, if you consume the whole egg (both yolk and egg white) there is more than enough biotin in the yolk to compensate for the avidin binding, making biotin deficiency a highly unlikely outcome of eating eggs. On the other hand, if you regularly consume egg whites only (perhaps tossing the yolk for fear of cholesterol and fats), you really are putting yourself at risk for a biotin deficiency unless you eat a lot of other biotin-rich foods or take a biotin supplement.
So to be clear, I recommend eating the whole egg. Not only will this give you plenty of biotin, but egg yolks also contain valuable fats, cholesterol and protein needed for optimal health.