Are You Getting Enough B12?

. 4 min read
Oysters on the half shell

If you read my blog regularly, you know we eat a lot of shellfish. Particularly mollusks, such as oysters, clams, and mussels. I try to feed my family mollusks (usually oysters) once a week.

It was after I read Nina Planck’s wonderful book, Real Food, that I decided that we needed to eat more shellfish. Shellfish is a highly nutritious food, right up there with organ meats. Mollusks in particular are loaded with B12.

You can also get a lot of B12 from liver. I don’t know about your family but mine isn’t so keen on eating liver once a week. They like liver paté, but I can only get away with that maybe once or twice a month.

On the other hand, they will gladly eat oysters or mussels every week.

It’s true that oysters and mussels are expensive, but $10 for a dozen oysters is money well spent when you consider the nutrition content.

There’s a great article on the Weston A. Price website about B12, why we need it, what the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency are, and which foods provide the most B12. I’ve excerpted some of the article below.

This chart blows me away. Just look at mollusks and liver compared to everything else. This illustrates clearly the nutrient density of these foods. Nothing else even comes close!

Mollusks (clams, oysters, mussels, etc.) 3 ounces 84.1 micrograms
Liver, beef, 1 slice 47.9 micrograms
Trout, wild, 3 ounces 5.4 micrograms
Salmon, 3 ounces 4.9 micrograms
Trout, farm-raised, 3 ounces 4.2 micrograms
Beef sirloin, 3 ounces 2.4 micrograms
Yogurt 1.4 micrograms
Milk, 1 cup 0.9 micrograms
Pork, cured ham, canned, 3 ounces 0.6 micrograms
Egg, hardboiled 0.6 micrograms
Chicken breast, 1/2 breast 0.3 micrograms
Why Do We Need B12?
Vitamin B12 works with folic acid in many body processes including synthesis of DNA, red blood cells and the insulation sheath (the myelin sheath) that surrounds nerve cells and facilitates the conduction of signals in the nervous system.
What Are the Symptoms of B12 Deficiency?
Severe depletion manifests as pernicious anemia, which was invariably fatal until the discovery of B12 in liver. But long before anemia sets in, other conditions may manifest, most often neurological problems (numbness, pins and needles sensations, a burning feeling in the feet, shaking, muscle fatigue, sleep disorders, memory loss, irrational anger, impaired mental function and Alzheimer’s) or psychological conditions (dementia, depression, psychosis and obsessive-compulsive behavior).
How to Avoid B12 Deficiency:
Get a plentiful amount in your food. Liver or shellfish eaten at least once a week is the the best way to ensure that you are taking in adequate amounts.
Avoid overconsumption of foods that block vitamin B12 intake or increase the body’s need for the vitamin, such as soy foods and spirulina.
Avoid antacids and drugs that lower stomach acid levels: acid-suppressing drugs such as Tagamet, Zantac and Losec can lead to serious B12 deficiency (Koop H. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 1992;6:399-406 [review]; Marcaurd SP and others. Ann Intern Med 1994;120:211-215).
Avoid diabetes drugs such as Glucophage which also interfere with B12 absorption (Archives Int Med 2002 Feb 25;162:484-85.
Consume plenty of calcium. Calcium is involved in the absorption of B12 from the lower small intestine. Best sources are raw dairy products and bone broths. (Bone broths also help heal intestinal inflammation that could cause absorption problems.) Dolomite powder can also be used as a calcium source.
Take coconut oil and consume lacto-fermented foods: these help fight against pathogens such as helicobacter pylori, which is associated with B12 deficiency. Eradication of the organism often clears up B12 deficiency. (Archives of Internal Medicine, May 8, 2000 160:1349-53)
Avoid foods fortified with folic acid. (vitamin supplements, bread & cereal) Taking folic acid without B12 can mask signs of B12 deficiency in red blood cells but will not protect against deficiencies in the nervous system. Folic acid and B12 work together and any supplementation program should include both of these nutrients (Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, pantothenic acid, biotin, and choline. National Academy Press. Washington, DC 1998).
Avoid taking excess vitamin C, especially for long periods. The ability of vitamin C to destroy B12 has been observed by several researchers–although this is disputed by others. Small amounts of natural vitamin C are a better choice than large amounts of synthetic vitamin C. (Herbert V and Das KC. Folic acid and vitamin B12. In: Shils ME, Olson JA, Shike M, eds. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 8th ed. PhiladelphiaL Lea & Febiger, 1994:404.)
Don’t smoke. Cigarette and cigar-smoking deplete vitamin B12 (New Eng J Med 1995 Nov 2;333(18):1176-82).
Avoid vaccinations containing thimerosol and other mercury-containing compounds. Vitamin B12 is depleted by mercury (J Molecular Psychiatry Apr 2004).
Avoid molds in the environment and your food. Mycotoxins produced by molds disrupt or interfere with the normal functions of vitamin B12 (Anyanwi EC and others. Scientific World Journal 2004 Aug;4:736-45).
Do not take oral contraceptives (the pill), which can deplete vitamin B12. (Henley S. Body Forum 1977 Jan 30;2(7):20; Sutterlin MW and others. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol 2003 Mar 26;107(1):57-61; Lussana F and others. Thromb Res 2003;112(1-2):37-41).
Take B12 supplements if you have any conditions that might interfere with B12, such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease and similar intestinal disorders, especially if you are elderly or exhibit any of the symptoms of B12 deficiency.

If your family won’t eat raw oysters, try serving fried oysters. You can bread them and fry them in lard, or sautee them in butter.

You could also try making Moules a la Mariniere, which are mussels simmered in white wine, butter and cream. Here’s the recipe. My family absolutely loves this, especially when I make Moules Frites, which is the same thing served with French fries (which I fry in beef tallow).

Source: Vitamin B12: Vital Nutrient for Good Health