Every once in a while, an ‘expert’ steps forward and claims that supplements do nothing for us but make ‘expensive urine’. In their opinion, spending any amount of money in an attempt to raise our level of wellness is simply flushed down the drain.
There is some validity to this argument when it comes to supplement quality. If you’re depending on cheap vitamins from the local drugstore to keep you in tip top shape, you may not be experiencing any actual benefit (link to supplement article). But there is a good reason that vitamins and supplements are a $37 billion dollar industry. Quality brands have known benefits for immediate – and long-term – health.
Vitamin and nutrient deficiencies can have a devastating effect on our health overall. Combined with a well-rounded diet, quality supplements can increase our energy, boost our immune systems, and keep disease at bay. But our fast-paced lifestyles can sometimes get the best of us. We don’t eat properly, we don’t make healthy meal choices, we skip meals altogether, and, before you know it, our diet has us feeling run down.
The effects of poor dietary habits builds up over time. As we age, the effects become more and more noticable. You, or someone you know, may currently be suffering from any number of conditions that, sadly, have become more common in our fast-paced world. The obvious outcome of poor dietary habits tends to be weight gain, but gaining pounds is just the tip of the iceberg. Chronic stress, adrenal fatigue, and depression are also common results. And they can all be linked to not only diet, but the specific lack of a very common nutrient: B12.
Found primarily in dairy products and meat, B12 is required by the body to make DNA, create healthy blood cells, and keep the nervous system functioning properly. A 2004 study showed that B12 deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the world, occurring in the United States, Mexico, Central America and certain areas in Africa.
B12 is instrumental in the formation of the myelin sheath, the protective covering on our nerves. But a B12 deficiency can cause demyelination, damage to the myelin sheath causing disruption in nerve-impulse transmission. If the myelin sheath becomes damaged and thin it opens the door to all kinds of mental disorders including depression, as well as OCD, an inability to focus, and even tourette’s. The thicker the myelin sheath, the more neurotransmitters are present, and the more accurately the information-filled impulse will be passed.
A decrease in the neurotransmitter serotonin is a commonly accepted cause of depression but a study suggests that depressed patients treated with 0.4 mg of vitamin B12 per day will exhibit decreased depression symptoms due to the free flow of serotonin. Other neurodegenerative autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Guillain–Barré syndrome can also occur when the myelin sheath is thin.
Thankfully, avoiding a B12 deficiency is simple, and involves taking a quality supplement as well as fortifying your diet with foods rich in B12 such as red meat, salmon, feta cheese, and eggs. If you are vegetarian or vegan, nutritional yeast and fortified tofu are also great sources. B12 is a water soluble vitamin that doesn’t store in the body so it needs to be taken every day. If you are pregnant, taking adequate amounts of B12 is important for proper and healthy development of the fetus as formation of the myelin sheath begins early in the third trimester.