The last time you drank a glass of milk, you probably weren’t thinking about its vitamin B12 content or the health of your red blood cells and nerves. The good news is that milk doesn’t just go great with cookies — it contains a number of healthy vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12, that are especially important for people 50 or older. Vitamins, as you’ve likely heard many times, are vital for the maintenance of the body. Vitamin B12, part of the B-group of vitamins, helps the body utilize fuel and is required for the synthesization of amino acids. Both of these functions are crucial for staying healthy as a senior.
When you eat certain foods, like dairy, fish, eggs and meat, you also ingest vitamin B12, which is bound to the food’s protein. Your stomach releases HCL (hydrochloric acid) to break down the food. The acid helps to release vitamin B12 from the protein in these food particles. After vitamin B12 is released, it combines with IF (intrinsic factor), a protein which originates from your stomach cells. Intrinsic factor allows the vitamin B12 to be absorbed by your small intestine and ultimately find its way into your bloodstream.
For young and old alike, vitamin B12 helps the body make nerves and red blood cells, and it is also integral for the production of DNA, which is the genetic information carried in our cells. The daily recommended amount (for adults) of Vitamin B12 is 2.4 mcg (micrograms). Unfortunately, certain conditions can limit the absorption of this important vitamin. Crohn’s disease and celiac are two examples, since these conditions can disrupt food absorption in your digestive tract. Another very common condition that interferes with the absorption of vitamin B12 is age.
As we age, the volume of hydrochloric acid produced by our stomach starts to decrease, making it harder for our body to properly absorb the daily amount of vitamin B12 our body needs. Atrophic gastritis, or a type of chronic inflammation that causes the stomach lining to thin, strikes as many as 30% of people who are age 50 or over. This condition can also lead to lack of proper absorption of Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 deficiency can attribute to serious health problems, including:
- Pernicious anemia, or a decreased count of red blood cells in your body
- Cognitive problems, such as difficulties with reasoning and thinking
- Joint pain
- Low blood pressure
- Jaundice, or yellowing of the skin caused by high bile pigments in your blood
- Tingling or numbness of the legs and/or extremities (hands and feet)
People over the age of 50 should supplement their diet with 25-100 mcg of vitamin B12 daily, or consume foods fortified with vitamin B12, to ensure they meet their daily needs. Getting the proper amount of vitamin B12 is crucial for your mental and physical health. If you’re an older person, particularly 50 or above, be sure to take the extra steps needed to get your vitamin B12, and keep your mind and body healthy and happy.
References: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/29/health/vitamin-b12-deficiency-can-cause-symptoms-that-mimic-aging.html?_r=0, http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/vitamin-b12-deficiency-can-be-sneaky-harmful-201301105780, http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/vitamin_b12_deficiency
Originally posted 2013-10-08 11:22:26.