Known as the “energy vitamin,” vitamin B12 is essential for many critical functions in the body. Not only does B12 help produce energy, but it also supports the immune system and the nervous system, and regulates the formation of red blood cells.
Low levels of B12 can result in anemia, nervousness, depression, low energy and all around poor health.
Studies show that as many as one in four adults, and as many as 80 percent of people in the United States, may be deficient in vitamin B12, which is a big health concern.
Reasons for deficiency
There are several reasons for B12 deficiency, including decreased absorption of the nutrient because of aging, alcohol abuse, and even tapeworm infestation, but the main cause in relatively healthy people is the modern diet. Since the vitamin is only present in animal sources of food – meat and poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products – those who don’t eat animal products are more likely to suffer from low levels.
But consuming poor quality animal products from animals that are fed unhealthy grains, or eating pasteurized dairy products in which the B12 is destroyed, is also a large part of the problem.
So what’s a body to do?
Since our bodies do not easily or efficiently absorb vitamin B12 supplements (including those added to processed foods), and painful, expensive injections are not usually helpful, the best and easiest way to get enough B12 is to eat fresh animal products naturally rich in the nutrient. Grass-fed beef, fresh pastured eggs, free-range chickens and grass-fed raw milk are some of the best natural sources of this important vitamin. And the best way for our bodies to absorb vital nutrients is through natural food sources.
Unfortunately in today’s society these types of foods are hard to come by. And in many parts of the United States, unpasteurized milk is illegal for human consumption. Not so in Europe, Asia and many other countries where it is highly revered. But many people in the United States are finding ways to buy grass-fed and naturally raised meats and raw milk through local farm co-ops and directly from their local farmers or at farmers markets. Even Whole Foods markets carry some vitamin B12-rich raw milk cheeses. In some states, like California and Connecticut, raw milk products are available in stores.
Supplementation as a last resort
If you believe you may be low in vitamin B12, have your blood levels tested. If for some moral or other reason you can’t eat animal products, choose liquid B12 supplements that can be absorbed through the skin or taken orally rather than taken in a pill form. Use shots only as a last resort, because they can be painful and expensive and not always effective.
For best results, eat a diet rich in a variety of quality animal foods and avoid supplements altogether.