You see it almost everywhere these days — energy drinks that advertise the wonder of B vitamins. And they all claim to give you the energy boost to get you through your day.
Sadly, it’s a big marketing ploy. The quick energy in these drinks usually comes from their high sugar and synthetic caffeine content.
It’s true that B vitamins are essential to your body’s energy metabolism. And B12 in particular is crucial for energy.
When you take in high-quality B12, you unlock the energy contained in the foods you eat and turn it into glucose you can burn.
But fortified junk food is no way to get your vitamins. In a minute, I’m going to show you a better way.
But let’s take a look at how important vitamin B12 really is — especially as you age.
First of all, your body’s ability to absorb vitamin B diminishes as you get older. So you may need vitamin B supplements, even shots, if you are deficient. A straightforward blood test can determine your vitamin B levels.
As you age, your digestive track no longer produces a protein called gastric “intrinsic factor.” This protein binds to vitamin B12 so that your body can absorb it.
If you are deficient in vitamin B12, you may experience:
- Memory loss, impaired thinking and general cognitive difficulties;
- Fatigue and weakness;
- Trouble walking and balance problems;
- Numbness or tingling in your hands, legs or feet;
- Yellowish skin;
- A swollen or inflamed tongue.
B12 works with the seven other members of the B vitamin family to support your metabolism. It also helps regulate nerve transmissions and maintain the health of your nervous system and spinal cord.
It also helps synthesize DNA, regenerate bone marrow, and renew the lining of your gut and respiratory system.
When you don’t get enough B12, your body can’t get energy out of your food. It also can’t form healthy red blood cells. And the result is low energy, weakness and fatigue.
B12 also protects your telomeres. You may have heard me talk about telomeres many times before.
Telomeres are the protective caps at the ends of your chromosomes. Every time your cells divide, your telomeres get shorter — and that means you are dramatically increasing your risk of contracting the chronic diseases of aging.
In one study from the National Institutes of Health, doctors looked at telomere length in 586 people.1 Over 10 years, people taking vitamin B12 supplements had telomeres on average 5.9% longer than those who didn’t take B12.
In fact, their cells were acting more than 10 years younger. And that means lots more energy.
Here are some of the best food sources of vitamin B12: 2
- Braised beef liver;
- Wild-caught rainbow trout;
- Wild-caught salmon;
- Top sirloin;
- Plain yogurt;
- Wild-caught tuna;
- Swiss cheese;
- Free-range eggs.
As you can see, B12 comes from animals. Vegetarians and vegans sometimes try to get B12 from plant sources, like seaweed, fermented soy, spirulina and brewer’s yeast. But they’re really getting analogs of B12, called cobamides. And they can actually block your intake of B12 and increase your need for the real thing.3
In addition, acid reflux and ulcer drugs, like Prilosec, Nexium and Pepcid interfere with B12. So do diabetes drugs like metformin.
And patients with celiac disease, colitis, IBS or Crohn’s disease, as well as gut issues like “leaky gut” or an inflamed gut, also have trouble absorbing B12.
Those are just some of the reasons why nearly 26% of people over the age of 60 have low or borderline B12 levels.4 And it’s why I recommend a B12 blood test for most of my patients.
Your doctor might tell you normal B12 numbers are between 200 and 350 picograms per milliliter (pg/mL). But I find patients at that level have clear symptoms of B12 deficiency. I recommend keeping your level above 450 pg/mL.
To get to that level, most people need to supplement. I recommend taking 5,000 mcg per day for healthy energy levels and telomere protection.
But avoid the pill or capsule forms of B12. Only a small fraction will get absorbed through your gut. Patches or lozenges do a better job.
Sprays are most effective… Right now, I’m working on a powerful, new B12 formula in spray form. And I expect it to be ready in just a matter of weeks.
You spray a fine mist of vitamin B12 into your mouth. Capillaries and small blood vessels in your mouth quickly absorb the mist and deliver it to your circulatory system, tissues and cells.
And it bypasses the gut, where your B12 absorption may be inefficient.
Stay tuned for more information!
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD, CNS
1Qun Xu et al, “Multivitamin use and telomere length in women.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2009; 89(6): 1857–1863.
2“Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin B12.” Nat’l Inst. Of Health
3Watanabe F et al, “Pseudovitamin B(12) is the predominant cobamide of an algal health food, spirulina tablets.” J Agric Food Chem. 1999;47(11):4736-41.
4Lindsay H. Allen, “How common is vitamin B-12 deficiency?” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2009;89(2):693S-6S.