A Better B
Methylcobalamin is a type of vitamin B12 similar to that used in the body’s cells.
by Lisa James
The B family of vitamins is a big, busy crew that plays dozens of roles within the body. Among them is vitamin B12, which is as active as any of its nutritional siblings when it comes to supporting health and well-being.
Another name for vitamin B12 is cobalamin. There are several types, one of which, methylcobalamin, is similar to that utilized by the body’s own cells.
Like all of the Bs, vitamin B12 is crucial to energy production. It is part of the chemical reaction responsible for oxygen-based, or aerobic, energy. What’s more, red blood cells require a substance called hemoglobin to carry oxygen through the bloodstream. Without enough B12, the body can’t make adequate amounts of hemoglobin. This is especially crucial when it comes to brain function because of the brain’s enormous energy demands, which may explain why vitamin B12 deficiency has been linked to depression and cognitive difficulties.
Vitamin B12 has been found to play a role in skeletal health. While scientists aren’t completely clear on how B12 affects bone physiology, they believe it may increase osteoblasts, the cells that produce new bone, and that B12 deficiency may indirectly lead to an increase in osteoclasts, which break down bone (Nutrients 5/7/15). Low B12 levels have been associated with a higher risk of fractures in older men (Osteoporosis International 1/14). B12 is also needed for the production of DNA, the stuff of which genes are made.
In addition, vitamin B12, working with its partner vitamin B6, helps prevent the buildup of homocysteine. High levels of this substance have been linked to cardiovascular disease.
A number of factors can reduce vitamin B12 levels. These include weight loss surgery, intestinal disorders such as Crohn’s disease, certain immune system conditions, long-term use of acid-blocking drugs and excessive alcohol use. Vegans (and babies born to vegan mothers) are also at risk for B12 deficiency, since it is generally found in animal-based foods. However, the most common reason for vitamin B12 inadequacy lies in advancing age.
In order for B12 to pass from the intestines into the bloodstream, the vitamin must be bound to a substance called intrinsic factor, which is created by cells in the stomach lining. Sometimes the immune system attacks these cells, causing a condition called pernicious anemia because the lack of vitamin B12 eventually affects red blood cell production. Intrinsic factor production can also be hampered by atrophic gastritis, in which the stomach lining thins out.
Atrophic gastritis becomes more common as people age, as does vitamin B12 deficiency. In fact, a team of Canadian researchers has urged that all people in nursing homes be screened
for low levels of B12 (Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism 2/16).
Methylcobalamin is activated vitamin B12; because it’s already bioavailable, the body does not need to convert it from another form. Methyl-cobalamin has been used clinically to help promote nerve regeneration and fight neurotoxicity, and may help ease nerve-related pain (Neural Plasticity 12/26/13).
Vitamin B12 deficiency is a common reason for a lack of energy as you age. Methylcobalamin provides a readily available solution.