In my practice, I see a big difference in vitamin levels between women and men… especially when it comes to vitamin B12.
Many more women come to my Wellness Center with low B12 levels. In a minute, I’ll explain why that’s happening.
But first, I want you to understand that low vitamin B12 can be a problem for anyone.
Your body needs B12 to make red blood cells and nerves. A severe deficiency can lead to anemia, depression and memory loss. It can cause incontinence, loss of taste and smell, headaches, migraines and more.
But for women, low B12 levels have also been linked to one of the most serious epidemics of modern times.
I’m talking about breast cancer.
A study from Johns Hopkins University tells the whole story. Researchers compared blood samples of 195 breast cancer patients with 195 healthy women. The women with the lowest levels of B12 had four times the risk of breast cancer as those with the highest levels.1
You see, vitamin B12 makes sure that your DNA gets copied accurately when cells divide. It’s critical to prevent the kind of DNA damage that leads to breast cancer.
Here’s how it works…
Vitamin B12 is one way your body makes sure everything runs smoothly. It helps convert the amino acid homocysteine to methionine and then to S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe). This natural compound triggers the “methylation” process of making well-formed DNA.Your cells are constantly dividing and replicating themselves. DNA strands have to unravel, make a copy of your chromosomes, and zip up the DNA again. This process happens billions of times every day. A lot could go wrong.
When you don’t have enough B12 — even a small deficiency — DNA in new cells can have weak links between chromosomes. And that makes cells more likely to form mutations linked to cancer.2
But you can reverse the slide to cancer even after these mutations occur. A study in the famous Journal of the American Medical Association found that taking vitamin B12 and folic acid (vitamin B9) makes the difference. It not only stops the progress of precancerous changes but also helps reverse the damage.3
That’s why I encourage women in my Wellness Center to make sure they’re getting enough vitamin B12. Many of them aren’t getting enough, because they’ve fallen for bad diet advice. They want to lose weight and they think low-fat dieting is the answer. They cut back on fatty meats, fish, dairy and eggs.
But low-fat diets are a big cause of vitamin B12 deficiencies. You can only get B12 by eating what I call a primal diet that’s rich in animal products. You see, vitamin B12 is only produced in the gut of animals. You can’t get it from plants.
Here are some of the best food sources of vitamin B12:
Some dieticians claim you can get B12 from plant sources — like seaweed, fermented soy, spirulina and brewer’s yeast. But those foods only contain analogs of B12. They’re called cobamides. They can block your intake of B12 and increase your need for the real thing.4
Even if you eat B12 foods two or three times a day it might not be enough. That’s because as you get older you may have trouble absorbing vitamin B12.
It can be caused by low stomach acid and heavy alcohol use. Drugs like proton pump inhibitors (Prilosec and Nexium) also interfere with B12. So do diabetes drugs like metformin.
That’s why many women need to supplement. According to the National Institutes of Health, most adults need just 2.4 mcg per day. But you need to take much more than that.
I recommend taking at least 100 mcg per day. But I advise many of my patients to take as much as 2,000 mcg per day. You can take high doses of vitamin B12 safely. Your body excretes any excess or stores it in the liver for later use.
Look for vitamin B12 supplements in capsules, patches, lozenges, or sublingual sprays. They all work for boosting your B12 levels.
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD, CNS
- Wu K, Helzlsouer KJ, Comstock GW, et al. “A prospective study of folate, B12, and pyridoxal 5-phosphate (B6) and breast cancer.” Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 1999;8:209-17.
- Feinberg AP, Vogelstein B. “Hypomethylation distinguishes genes of some human cancers from their normal counterparts.” Nature, 1983;301:89-92.
- Heimburger DC, Alexander C, Birch R, Butterworth CE, Jr, Bailey WC, Krumdieck CL. “Improvement in Bronchial Squamous Metaplasia in Smokers Treated With Folate and Vitamin B12: Report of a Preliminary Randomized, Double-blind Intervention Trial.” JAMA. 1988;259(10):1525-1530.
- Watanabe 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.