Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause dozens of health problems.

Vitamin B12 deficiency can make your tongue swell, turn your skin yellow, make you incontinent and interfere with your sense of taste and smell. It can cause joint pain and give you pins and needles. It can cause depression, paranoia and make you hallucinate.

Too little B12 is linked to anemia, robbing your cells of oxygen and making you tired. And it can also dramatically increase your risk of heart disease.

An estimated 32% of adults over 50 have severely low B12 levels and perhaps 20% are borderline for this problem. While it can hit anyone, strict vegetarians and seniors are particularly at risk.

But here’s the real shocker . . . if you’re not getting enough of this precious nutrient, your brain could be shrinking. Literally.

Vitamin B12 is a powerful brain nutrient. Low B12 levels have been linked to brain health issues ranging from Alzheimer’s to ADHD. Too little B12 is linked to smaller brain size.

Unfortunately, B12 deficiency is often overlooked. While B12 deficiency can come on quickly and dramatically, often it sneaks up on people as the body uses up vitamin B12 stores in the liver and has a harder time recycling it from your bile. For this reason, the Centers for Disease control created a special campaign encouraging doctors to look for B12 deficiency in their patients.

Why is B12 deficiency such a problem? B12 can be a hard nutrient to get enough of . . .

Why Seniors And Vegans Are Particularly At Risk

If you’re vegan you can’t find the active form you need in most plant sources. Vitamin B12 is almost exclusively found in animal products – meat, eggs, fish and dairy.

Be warned, you may hear certain plant-sourced foods can give you B12. However, these claims are usually misleading since the method of measuring B12 levels does not distinguish between different forms of the vitamin. There are several different forms of B12. And our bodies can only use one kind.

Vegans who have thought they could rely on fermented foods like tempeh or spirulina may not be getting the form of B12 their body can use. Fermented foods have scant amounts. Even worse, the B12 found in spirulina has been found to block active B12 absorption, speeding up the development of B12 deficiency.

But it’s not only vegans who risk B12 deficiency . . .

• B12 absorption in the small intestine requires a special protein produced by the stomach called intrinsic factor. Our stomach produces less of this special protein as we get older. For this reasons seniors are particularly at risk for low vitamin B12 levels.

• If you take antacids, you also may be losing out. Your body needs acid to absorb B12.

• Finally, if intestinal problems like celiac or Crohn’s disease make it hard for you to absorb food, you may also be having a hard time absorbing B12 no matter how much you take in.

You Can Get More Vitamin B12 – Here’s How:

Non-vegetarians can get plenty of B12 from animal products. But for vegetarians and vegans, it can be tough.

However, there are some options . . .

Two studies confirm that chlorella is one of the few plant sources on the planet that has the active form of B12 you and your brain need.

In a Japanese study, three different types of alga – purple and green lavers and chlorella – were found to have the bioavailable form of B12. To make sure that this was the active form of B12 mammals require, researchers gave these alga to B12 deficient animals and found these seaweeds and chlorella reversed this.

A very small scale Finnish study found the same results in humans. The study first compared the serum B12 levels of vegans and omnivores. They found the vegan’s serum levels were far below the omnivore’s levels. However, within the vegan group, the vegans who ate nori seaweed and chlorella had B12 levels that were two times higher than those of the vegans who didn’t eat these foods.

Nonetheless, all of the vegans showed a steady decline of B12 levels over the 2 years that the study was conducted. As the authors noted, only with above average intake of chlorella and nori could vegans hope to keep their serum levels at normal levels.

For people who have difficulty absorbing Vitamin B12, B12 shots that direct the active form right into the bloodstream also has shown positive results.

Boost Your Energy And Brain Power With Vitamin B12

Making sure you are getting enough vitamin B12 can transform your health for years to come – particularly when it comes to your brain and your heart.

But unlike many essential nutrients that don’t reveal their benefits to you until years down the line . . . B12 yields almost immediate results . . .

Seniors and vegans alike have been pleasantly surprised by what a difference this simple nutrient can make. Draggy days turn upbeat. Foggy moments become sparkling clear.

So get your B12 levels tested . . . and then add more B12 rich foods and supplements accordingly. By adding B12 to your diet, you can tap into one of the best brain-boosting energizers nature provides.


Anderson J. Vitamin B12 Levels Linked To Memory Skills And Brain Size. AARP. Oct 4, 2011.

Tucker KL et al. High homocysteine and low B vitamins predict cognitive decline in aging men: the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Sep;82(3):627-35

Skerrett P. Vitamin B12 deficiency can be sneaky and harmful. Harvard Health blog. January 10, 2013.
Herbert V. Vitamin B12: Plant sources, requirements and assay. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1988; 48:852-8

Watanabe F et al. Characterization and bioavailability of vitamin B12-compounds from edible algae. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2002 Oct;48(5):325-31.

Rauma AL et al. Vitamin B12 status of long-term adherents of a strictr uncooked vegan diet (“living food diet”) is compromised. The Journal of Nutrition, March 1995.

Author's Bio: 

About Dr. David Nelson, Ph D

David Nelson is a nutritional consultant, and has been involved in the field of nutritional studies for over 20 years. Dr. Nelson studied at San Diego University, Iowa State University, and Mankato State University. He currently specializes in the areas of Anti-aging, Sports Performance Nutrition, and Allergy. For the past 15 years, Dr. Nelson has been the Nutritionist at the Center for Advanced Medicine, and co-hosts the radio show "Health Talk, A Second Opinion," with the other doctors from the Center. He is also an esteemed member of the Sun Chlorella Advisory Board, which helps guide the medical innovation behind Sun Chlorella products.

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