“I read that the B12 from algae and other plants cannot be absorbed well and therefore needs to be supplemented if not eating much meat.”
The long answer: These days the vitamin B12 deficiency myth continues to surface. There are many non-scientific rumors about B12 and its relationship with certain algae. Usually, these rumors are preached by old doctors, marketers, or talk radio shows dominated by heavy recommendations for drugs, meat and dairy products, but the question still comes up. In reality, a very small number of people may develop a B12 deficiency, and interestingly most of them are not vegetarian or vegan.
Yes, vitamin B12 is a critical vitamin, and it helps in proper formation of red blood cells, manufacturing of DNA, formation of fatty insulation surrounding nerve cells, detoxification of cyanide from cigarettes and food, cancer prevention, nervous system health, proper growth, prevention of PMS, posture and balance, memory and concentration, proper cell division and sperm production and motility.
Also known as cobalamin due to its central cobalt atom, vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin with a low daily requirement of 2 to 3 micrograms (that’s micrograms, not milligrams!). In addition to having extremely low intake requirements, vitamin B12 is stored in the liver, kidneys, and muscle tissue, and 65% to 75% of our B12 is reabsorbed by the body instead of excreted.
“All of the Vitamin B12 in the world ultimately comes from bacteria. Neither plants nor animals can synthesize it. But plants can be contaminated with B12 when they come in contact with soil bacteria that produce it. Animal foods are rich in B12 only because animals eat foods that are contaminated with it or because bacteria living in an animal’s intestines make it.”
— The Vegetarian Way: Total Health for You and Your Family (1996), Virginia Messina, MPH, RD, & Mark Messina, PhD p. 102
Human absorption and distribution of vitamin B12
The human physiology of vitamin B-12 is complex, and therefore is prone to mishaps leading to vitamin B-12 deficiency. The vitamin as it occurs in food enters the digestive tract bound to proteins, known as salivary R-binders. Stomach proteolysis of these proteins requires an acidic pH, and also requires proper pancreatic release of proteolytic enzymes. Even small amounts of B-12 taken in supplements bypasses these steps and thus any need for gastric acid, which may be blocked by antacid drugs.
The free B-12 then attaches to gastric intrinsic factor, which is generated by the gastric parietal cells. If this step fails due to gastric parietal cell atrophy (the problem in pernicious anemia), sufficient B-12 is not absorbed. At this point it is critical to restore this metabolism through a proper diet, exercise and a good dose of BAC.
The conjugated vitamin B-12-intrinsic factor complex (IF/B-12) is then normally absorbed by the terminal ileum of the small bowel. Absorption of food vitamin B-12 therefore requires an intact and functioning stomach, exocrine pancreas, intrinsic factor, and small bowel. Problems with any one of these organs makes a vitamin B-12 deficiency possible.
Once the IF/B-12 complex is recognized by specialized ileal receptors, it is transported into the portal circulation. The vitamin is then transferred to transcobalamin II (TC-II/B12), which serves as the plasma transporter of the vitamin. Genetic deficiencies of this protein are known, also leading to functional B-12 deficiency.
For the vitamin to serve inside cells, the TC-II/B-12 complex must bind to a cell receptor, and be endocytosed. The transcobalamin-II is degraded within a lysozyme, and the B-12 is finally released into the cytoplasm, where it may be transformed into the proper coenzyme, by certain cellular enzymes (see above).
After reading this description of human assimilation of B12, I hope you realize the futility of supplementation of a megadose of B12 in any form. A B12 deficiency could take from 5 to 20 years to develop from inadequate intake, but most likely from degenerative mal-assimilation. Eventually a B12 deficiency manifests as nerve damage and pernicious anemia, a type of anemia where red blood cells are improperly formed and white blood cell count is low. It is clear that you will be served 1000% better if you focus on re-enforcing your overall cerebral and endocrine health through diet and exercise, which in turn will restore your efficient assimilation and absorption of B12, and of a myriad of other nutrients.
So how could anyone develop pernicious anemia when B12 intake requirements are so low, and when the liver stores so much that it takes years for a deficiency to develop? The reason touted for the B12 myth is that B12 is found primarily in animal foods. Very few plant foods provide good sources of B12, they say (in reality several plants and algae food contain good level of B12). So that statement is only partly true anyway, because the real source of B12 is not plants OR animals; neither manufacture their own B12. In the B12 arena, it is bacteria that are the B12 producers on which both plants and animals rely. And in humans, bacteria do not necessarily come from plants — our mouth, upper intestine, and lower intestine all contain bacteria that produce B12.
Another cause of B12 deficiency could be its destruction due to dietary or environmental factors. For example, smoking, high protein diets, alcohol consumption, chlorinated water (disruption by chloroform), and diarrhea may deplete B12. But the most common causes of B12 deficiency are absorption or re-absorption problems due to poor intrinsic factor production, a metabolic deficiency that is extremely prevalent in America.
B12 health the right way! – Allopathic megadosing of B12 is not a solution. Today it is well known that large amounts of isolate nutrients over what the body would normally obtain from food does not resolve the deficiency, but actually may lead to further imbalances, and as new research is proving, may even cause cancer and cardiovascular problems. Rather then buying into the “B12 deficiency” myth, a better way to feel secure about B12 is to restore your vitality overall. This holistic approach is achieved with proper diet and exercise; a high energy diet rich in mixed whole foods, the majority being fruits and vegetables due to their high mineral, vitamin and phytonutrients content.
B12 and BAC? – As mentioned above, B12 is manufactured by bacteria and much of Bio-Algae Concentrates are bacteria in the form of cyanobacteria, the scientific name for spirulina, the algae well known for its high quality B12 content. In summary, YES, BAC supplies a certain amount of extremely efficient B12 as present in three of its four algae, and that is a good thing. BUT, the much more important benefit of consuming BAC in regards to B12 requirements, is its “BAC awakens the genius within” action of efficiently nourishing the hypothalamus / pituitary axis, which in turn restores the metabolisms involved in B12 assimilation and B12 synthesis, including that of a healthy pancreas and intrinsic factor. This in turn results in a dramatic increase of your assimilation of B12 from your food and of its absorption and re-absorption in your digestive tracks.
The short answer: The cause of B12 deficiency has to do more with the individual’s metabolism than the lack of animal protein or B12 in the diet, severe B12 deficiency included.
You have heard the quantum truth “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. This applies particularly well to human and animal nutrition, like whole foods versus synthetic separates and isolates. If you took all of the parts of a human body and laid them out on a table, would you get a thinking man? Grandfather’s pocket watch, with its complex set of gears and mechanisms, gives you time, yes? But if you take out a bunch of gears, or even just one, will you still get time, either from the watch or from the separate gears? The answer is no. If you eat a whole apple you will get life. If you extract just the vitamin C or another vitamin from the apple, will you get life?
One must restore overall metabolic balance (homeostasis) instead of trying to address each imbalance one at a time. The usage of BAC and restoration of animal metabolism of energy, digestion, elimination, immunity and all metabolisms was proven undeniably in large research projects. This process is explained in BAC Awakens the Genius Within.
I personally would never eat separates or isolates chemicals with a name like methylcobalamin. I will eat wholefoods, algae, fruits and the many other wonderful food on earth for the rest of my life.