An Invisible Epidemic Strikes Men Of All Ages
Recent studies have shown that 40 percent of all men suffer from this condition. And the risk increases with age. No, I’m not talking about cardiovascular disease, prostate cancer, or any of the usual suspects. Today I’m talking about a simple vitamin deficiency - a deficiency of vitamin B12.
Sadly, although a vitamin B12 deficiency is typically easy to correct, most men who are suffering don’t know the cause. Most doctors aren’t testing for B12 deficiencies. Instead, doctors may diagnose men with Alzheimer’s, depression, anxiety, multiple sclerosis, and more. But for many men the real problem is just low levels of vitamin B12.
Read on and I’ll share with you what you can do to protect yourself.
The Symptoms of Deficiency
Most doctors aren’t ordering tests for vitamin B12 levels. But given how common deficiency is, that’s really a shame. If you are scheduled to get some blood work done, ask your doctor to include a test for vitamin B12. If your doctor won’t do it, you can order a test yourself using one of the lab companies that sell tests direct to the public.
If your B12 levels are below range then you definitely need to replenish them. But studies show that men with levels in the low end of the range are also in trouble. In fact, one expert says that men with levels lower than 450 pg/mL may be in trouble. But the normal range includes levels as low as 150 pg/mL!
The symptoms of low B12 can mimic many other conditions, but some of the clear signs of B12 deficiency include:
- yellow skin
- numbness or tingling in hands, legs, feet, and/or hands
- swollen tongue
- cognitive difficulties
- memory loss
- balance problems
- difficulty walking
Many of these symptoms may be reversible if you act in time. Vitamin B12 deficiency occurs in four stages. During the first few stages it is possible to completely reverse symptoms. But you don’t want to wait too long and then end up with long term damage.
Who Is At Risk
As we’ve already seen, 40 percent of all men of all ages are low in B12. But the risk increases with age, and men over 50 are at the highest risk.
Furthermore, other factors can increase risk. Among them are:
- frequent use of antacids or proton pump inhibitors
- use of the diabetes drug metformin
- alcohol consumption
- tobacco use
- use of nitrous oxide (for example, during surgery)
- Crohn’s disease or other inflammatory bowel disorders
- vegetarianism or veganism
As you can see, the risks are pretty high for most men.
Why You Need B12
Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that is found only in animal foods such as meat, fish, dairy, and eggs. Humans cannot make this vitamin, so it must be gotten from food.
Our bodies use B12 to manufacture DNA, to make red blood cells, and to make nerves. Without adequate B12 you will develop anemia and end up with nerve damage. That includes not only the nerves in the hands and feet, for example, but also the nerves in the brain.
What You Can Do
As you can see, a deficiency in vitamin B12 is bad news. But the good news is that you can take steps to help yourself without having to spend a fortune to line the pockets of doctors and pharmaceutical companies.
For men who have B12 levels in the low end of the “normal” range, a low potency vitamin B12 supplement will typically be sufficient to make a positive difference. But for men who are at the very low end of range or below range, a higher potency supplement will be necessary. For many men 1000 mcg (1 mg) or more per day may be necessary.
If the cause of deficiency is low intake (i.e. vegetarian or vegan diet) then any supplement will do. But if the cause of deficiency has to do with impaired digestive function (low stomach acid, malabsorption, frequent antacid use, etc.) then a typical oral supplement may do little good. The reason being that vitamin B12 requires a high functioning digestive system to be properly absorbed. In fact, in cases of low stomach acid or antacid use, oral B12 will not be absorbed at all.
The standard medical solution for low B12 is to give an injection of the vitamin once per week. An injection gets around the problem of poor oral absorption, and for some people it produces dramatic health improvements. However, some people have reactions to the injections. Plus, B12 injections can end up being expensive. So it is best to test out sublingual vitamin B12 first.
The term ‘sublingual’ just means ‘under the tongue’. In the mouth there are lots of blood vessels underneath the skin. When a substance is held in the mouth, particularly under the tongue, it will be absorbed directly into the blood. That avoids any problems with the digestive system.
You can find many sublingual vitamin B12 products through pharmacies, grocery stores, natural food stores, and online retailers.
Cautions To Observe
According to a large amount of study, supplementing with vitamin B12 is safe, even in large amounts. There has not been a single report in all the medical literature of anyone taking too much vitamin B12.
However, there are a few conditions in which one should be very cautious. If you already have a pre-existing condition such as cancer, skin disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, blood disorders, gout, or low potassium, you should consult with your doctor first because a sudden increase in B12 can temporarily worsen some of those conditions.
Also, if you have a B12 allergy or are uncertain, you should be cautious.
Some forms of vitamin B12 are better than others. The common form, cyanocobalamin, is the most likely to result in complications with pre-existing conditions. The forms methylcobalamin and hydroxocobalamin are best.
And remember that more is not always better. The smallest amount that helps you is the right amount for you. Periodic blood tests for vitamin B12 levels can be helpful in determining whether to continue to supplementation or not.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is more common than most of us knew. It affects a huge number of men, particularly those over the age of 50. If you have any of the symptoms associated with B12 deficiency, consider getting a blood test. If you have levels lower than 450 pg/mL, experts suggest that supplementation will help.