Natural Foods Education  Jennette Turner

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Brain-Boosting B12

By Jennette Turner

Feeling sluggish or a little foggy? Want to be proactive about brain health? Then let me introduce you to what’s known as the “feel-good” vitamin: B12, an essential element for warding off fatigue and weakness. Less well known, but equally important, is the fact that B12 is a brain-booster that helps us think logically and reason. It also assists in making myelin, which keeps the nerves throughout our bodies and brains in good repair. If that isn’t impressive enough, B12 helps keep our blood vessel walls strong to prevent heart disease, strokes and Alzheimer’s disease. Without enough B12 we are subject to depression, memory loss and rigid thinking.

Vitamin B12 is found in all animal products: meat, eggs, fish and dairy. The best source of B12 is beef liver, with 4 oz. containing between 500 – 700 percent of the U.S. R.D.A. (wow!) After liver, our best sources are red meat, poultry and seafood, followed by dairy products and, lastly, eggs – which contain only about eight percent of the U.S. R.D.A. per egg. It used to be thought that certain sea vegetables and micro algae contained B12, but this turned out to be a B12 analogue, meaning it looks like B12, but our bodies can’t use it.

Age and diet choices increase need
Vitamin B12 absorption naturally declines as we age, so the older we get, the more we need. Recent studies have shown that 16 percent of the elderly are B12-deficient, contributing to problems with memory retention and cognitive functions. Additionally, these same studies found that 43 percent of lacto-ovo vegetarians are deficient, so vegetarians need to make sure they get enough vitamin B12 through dairy products and eggs.

Four stages of B12 deficiency:

  1. Declining blood levels, causing tiredness, weakness or foggy thinking.
  2. Lower cellular concentrations, wherein fatigue increases and thinking becomes inflexible.
  3. Levels of a biochemical called homocysteine go up, increasing risk for heart disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s. 
  4. Pernicious anemia develops and red blood cells don’t form properly. If this continues, there will be irreversible nervous system and brain damage. 

Watch out for the depleters
Unfortunately, some of our favorite foods and beverages can deplete our tissues of this important nutrient: caffeine, white flour products and refined sweeteners. Did you notice? These are the very products we turn to when feeling tired. Occasional treats usually aren’t a problem, but limit regular consumption of these items. Your brain will thank you.  Certain medications also deplete B vitamins: aspirin, diuretics, blood pressure lowering drugs, stomach acid blockers, drugs for osteoporosis, and birth control pills.  You will need extra B12 if you are on any of these meds; I suggest either a sub-lingual or spray variety.  And of course, I suggest including organic liver in your diet on a regular basis!

©2011, Jennette Turner

Jennette turner is a Natural Foods Educator in Minneapolis. She Teaches public and private classes, and offers individual nutrition consultations. Jennette launced Dinner with Jennette (, to make it easier for people to incorporate natural foods into their diets. she can be reached at / 612-374-6039

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