Friday, 24 August 2012

Could you be lacking in B12?

I’ve been amazed by the exponential interest in vitamin D deficiency over the past couple of years – now everyone’s talking about it, writing about it, and worrying about it... But maybe that’s just a sign of general awakening to the importance of all vitamins and minerals. 

Most recently I’ve been writing about the desperate repercussions of a B12 deficiency. 

One expert, Dr Joseph Chandy, reckons this could be responsible for 20% of all chronic disease worldwide. And the fact that we live in the UK, where most of us should have access to adequate amounts of the many foods (including beef, cheese, and even marmite!) that provide B12, does not mean that we can take our B12 status for granted. If we lack the wherewithall to metabolise this vitamin, we will not reap its benefits – no matter how much we eat. 

This becomes more of a problem as we get older (past 65, B12 deficiency is a major cause of dementia – and experts say it should always be considered first when Alzheimer’s is being diagnosed) but some people are just born unlucky. Forgetfulness is just one symptom of B12 deficiency. Tiredness is another big one, and so is numbness of the limbs – with cases of assumed MS turning round dramatically when patients are treated with B12. 

You can read more about this fascinating – and very easily treated – condition in my article ‘the 60p injection that can boost your flagging energy’ in this week’s Daily MailBut, before you do, I’d just like to mention the case of Fiona Porter-Smith, a GP from Penarth, Glamorgan.

Fiona was already passionate about B12 treatment, when she too was diagnosed with B12 deficiency and Pernicious Anaemia (the condition that causes a deficiency no matter what your diet is like) three years ago.

She told me: ‘I was tired and had a low mood – classic symptoms - but ironically, despite my knowledge, I didn’t think of vitamin B12 deficiency. Then I developed very bad pins and needles in my hands and feet, and, fearing Multiple Sclerosis, I went to my own GP. A blood test showed I was low in B12, but I thought that was just something else we’d stumbled on – not the cause of my ‘MS’.

‘B12 treatment – even at very high doses – did not seem to help. But then I discovered that the B12 we use in the UK, Hydroxocobalamin, is inactive and needs to be converted by the body before it can be used by it. Not everybody can do this.

‘Meanwhile in the USA a ready converted – active - form, Methylcobalamin, was being used.’

Fiona, 41, now takes very high doses of the US form of vitamin B12. She can only obtain it from a private consultant in the UK, and it costs her nearly £200 a month – but it keeps her mood and energy up. And, now cured of her pins and needles and fear of MS, she has gone on to have her first baby, Alfred, three months ago. Aah... We journalists do love a happy ending!