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The Prevalence of Vitamin B Deficiency in Today's Society

September 29, 2010

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When you think of the B vitamins most people think of vitamin B6 or B12 or b complex which makes up the whole group. Vitamin B12 is the most widely known of the vitamin B group however B6 and b complex are starting to become well known due to the huge influx of people with vitamin B deficiencies. On average 1 out of 31 adults above the age of 51 have low vitamin B12. Even though vitamin B12 deficiencies are largely seen in the elderly populations, a study in 2002 found that 40% of healthy men and women had low levels of B vitamins. There are likely a large number of people who go undetected with vitamin B deficiencies. 

The B vitamins are a group of water-soluble vitamins that play a huge role in the body. The group of vitamin B’s are essential nutrients to the body because they are involved in so much of the bodies metabolism. The B vitamins are responsible for cellular differentiation, transmission of nerve electricity, health of nerve cells, heart pulse rate, muscular contraction, digestion, brain function, thought processes, energy production, metabolism, maintenance of skin and muscle tone, enhancing the immune and nervous system functions, promoting cell growth and division, and DNA synthesis. Originally the B vitamins were thought to be one vitamin but were later discovered to be a complex set of vitamins that coexist.

Although each individual vitamin has its own set of functions they work in conjunction to maintain the health of the human body.  Each vitamin although specifically categorized within the B group also has their own chemical name ie. B12- cyanocobalamin or methylcobalamin, B2- riboflavin, B9- folic acid.  B vitamins are found in whole unprocessed foods such as meat, poultry, milk, eggs, and fish. Additionally B vitamins can be found in whole grains, potatoes, bananas, lentils, chili peppers, tempeh, beans, nutritional yeast and molasses. However, B12 is the only one of the B group that cannot be found in plant products. Lower levels of vitamin B can be found in processed sugars and flour, as well as beers, and energy drinks, however the effects from these products can cancel out the benefit of the B vitamins or even cause a net deficit of vitamin B within the body.

Vegetarians make up a portion of people with B12 deficiency due to the lack of eating meat. Because of the huge number of people who are vitamin B deficient it is important to understand the reasons behind vitamin B deficiencies. Most people who have low levels or are deficient in vitamin B consume the proper amounts of the vitamin B’s. However, their stomachs have trouble absorbing the vitamin because of reduced levels of stomach acidity or intestinal disorders. In addition a disease called pernicious anemia, destroys the stomach cells that absorbs vitamin B12. Heartburn medicines and ulcer medicines also have this affect on the stomach as well. Surgical procedures on the stomach or intestines can also lead to trouble absorbing vitamin B12. Still there are other reasons for low levels or B deficiencies.

Stress plays a huge role on body functioning and is known for causing physical reactions within the body. Stress actually causes vitamin B levels to deplete within the body and the longer stress is present the longer the body will be deficient of vitamin B. A poor diet that is filled with processed foods and refined sugar leads to lower levels of vitamin B. Ultimately a poor diet leads to malnutrition which can lead to more severe health problems. Also all the food we eat is cooked, baked, heated or fried which leads to the elimination of nutrients. Excessive heating can destroy essential nutrients in the foods that we eat. By eating more raw foods our body can get adequate amounts of all vitamins, minerals and nutrients.  In addition drugs, both recreational and prescription medications deplete the levels of vitamin B. Toxic poisons and chemicals not only in the environment but through personal products can lead to lower levels of vitamin B.

            It has been discovered that initially there are no detectable signs that signify a lowered level or deficiency in vitamin B. Lowered levels of vitamin B can cause severe, debilitating problems within the body overtime. Unfortunately the first signs of deficiency are ignored, misinterpreted or diagnosed as something else. This includes signs of altered or diminished capacity such as fatigue, weakness, low energy and poor health. Overtime as the body goes without vitamin B more and more symptoms arise such as mental problems, heart palpitations, heart arrhythmias, fibrillation, indigestion, chronic fatigue, chronic exhaustion, paranoia, nervousness, feeling of uneasiness, easy agitation, frustration, insomnia, restlessness, tingling in hands, fingers and toes, rashes, crying spells, soreness all over, weight loss, cheilosis, sore throat, aggression, dermatitis, mental confusion, diarrhea, acne, paresthesia, anemia, depression, hypertension, impaired growth, peripheral neuropathy, memory loss, and many more. In addition to physical symptomology, diseases and illnesses are soon to appear including beriberi, scurvy, Wernicke's encephalopathy, ariboflavinosis, pellagra, microcytic anemia, Multiple carboxylase deficiency, and Pernicious anemia. Furthermore with the lack of vitamin B the adrenal system goes into overdrive to produce energy within the body. If the adrenal system continues to work overtime it can become worn out or impaired causing the body even more severe problems.

            If you have been diagnosed with lowered levels of vitamin B or a vitamin B deficiency then taking a vitamin B supplement is pertinent to avoiding problems within the body. Although, eating foods that are rich in vitamin B are better than taking a supplement in some cases supplementation is necessary. To raise your vitamin B levels it is necessary to take in at least 1000 mcg a day, which is near impossible to do with regular food. Dietary supplementation is necessary and there are several B vitamin supplements on the market including pills, tablets, capsules, and injections. If a medical doctor diagnoses you with a vitamin B deficiency, they can prescribe B12 or vitamin B complex in pharmaceutical grade. This is more potent than nutritional supplements because it is regulated by the FDA and has to go through a rigorous approval process. Vitamin B injections are more easily absorbed into the bloodstream. They are given once a week and are usually taken for the rest of your life. However vitamin B pills are just as effective as vitamin B shots. Ask your doctor for recommendations on a brand of nutritional supplementation for vitamin B. 

depressed woman, sad looking woman, possible vitamin B deficiency