On the Importance of B Vitamins

We’ve adapted this piece from the NYBC Info Sheet on Vitamin B12.

We can now update the Info Sheet with recent reports on the importance of the B vitamins for cognitive health, a specific concern for people with HIV, but also a general concern for people as they age: https://nybc.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/supplements-for-the-brain-and-nerves/

NYBC members often supplement with B-right B complex and/or with Methylcobalamin, a form of B12 that is better absorbed by the body than other forms of B12.

B-12 may play a very critical role in preventing HIV disease progression: a large Johns Hopkins University study found that people with HIV who are deficient in B-12 have a two-fold increased risk of progression to AIDS. In this study, those who were B-12 deficient progressed to AIDS four years faster than those who were not. The exact mechanism by which adequate B-12 in the body may slow progression is not known, but the finding is not surprising, given all the roles B-12 is known to play in healthy human function.

B12 and another B vitamin, folic acid, are critical to prevent or eliminate the often-overwhelming fatigue that so often accompanies HIV disease, as well as to help prevent some forms of neuropathy and brain and spinal cord changes. Maintaining adequate B12 levels also supports the bone marrow’s production of blood cells (crucial to prevent white and red blood cell decreases), and helps protect the heart.

There are countless anecdotal reports from people with HIV that using B-12 supplementation has dramatically improved their lives by its ability to reverse fatigue, often restoring normal energy to people who had previously been so exhausted that their daily functioning had been greatly affected. Many people have also reported significant improvements in memory and mental functioning, improvements that have made a huge difference in daily life. The possibility that B-12 supplementation might also help prevent or reverse the spinal cord changes that can have such devastating effects on some people is also very encouraging.

B-12 and folic acid should always be given together. Doses of B-12 (1000 mcg given daily via pills, or one to several times weekly via prescribable nasal gel or injections) and folic acid (800 mcg daily via pills) may be useful for restoring energy, treating neuropathy, protecting the heart, increasing overall feelings of well being, and boosting mental function (especially when combined with thiamin, niacin, and folic acid, since all four of these B vitamins are needed for normal neurological function) even when tests don’t indicate obvious deficiencies.

Deficiencies of B-12 can result in deterioration of mental function and neurologic damage that will yield such symptoms as memory loss, decreased reflexes, weakness, fatigue, disorientation, impaired pain perception, tinnitus (chronic ringing in the ears), neuropathy, burning tongue, and various psychiatric disorders. B-12 deficiency can also cause canker sores in the mouth, impaired bone marrow function, loss of appetite, and loss of weight, as well as impaired antibody responses to vaccines.

Folic acid deficiency can also cause fatigue and weakness, along with irritability, cramps, anemia, nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea, hair loss, mouth and tongue pain, and neurological problems. In addition, folic acid deficiency is believed to play a role in the development of numerous and varied types of human cancers.

A combination of B-12 and folic acid deficiency can allow increases in blood levels of homocysteine, a chemical that can damage artery walls and contribute to heart disease.

One of the known causes of B12 deficiency is chronic viral illness with resulting poor gastrointestinal absorption. AZT use may contribute to deficiencies of both B-12 and folic acid. Many other drugs may worsen folate status in the body including TMP/SMX (Bactrim, Septra), pyrimethamine, and methotrexate (all three of which are folate antagonists), as well as phenytoin (Dilantin), various barbiturates, and alcohol (all of which block folate absorption). B-12 deficiency can also worsen folate levels in the body because B-12 is required to change folate into its active form.

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Supplement recommendations in “The Ultramind Solution” by Dr. Mark Hyman

NOTE: NOW SEE NYBC’S LOW-COST ALTERNATIVE TO THE ULTRAMIND SOLUTION MULTIVITAMIN PACK–

https://nybc.wordpress.com/2011/04/02/nybcs-brainpower-multi-pak-low-cost-ultramind-solution/

One-third less than the over-priced “Ultramind Solution” supplements!

The UltraMind Solution: Fix Your Broken Brain by Healing Your Body First
Mark Hyman, M.D.

This is one of many books published in recent years that seek to translate the enormous body of research findings from the last few decades about nutrition and brain function into simple, useful guidelines for improving and maintaining good mental functioning and psychological well-being. While it’s a popularizing text (Dr. Hyman has even been on Martha Stewart–see link below!), this book does, we feel, accurately register many important trends in our knowledge of nutrition and nutritional supplements and how these factors relate to mental health.

Here’s the statistic that sets off Dr. Hyman’s project: one in three Americans suffer from some kind of “brain dysfunction” (one term in use: “brain fog”), including symptoms such as depression, anxiety, memory loss, attention deficit disorder, autism, and dementia.

“The Ultramind Solution” contends that revising your diet–changing your nutritional intake–can often make a huge difference in these symptoms. Dr. Hyman’s recommendations focus both on weeding out elements that adversely affect the system (too much sugar, poorly chosen carbs, alcohol, cigarettes), and sticking to a menu of what’s good, especially what’s good for brain function: 1) omega fatty acids (found in salmon, sardines, flaxseed); 2) amino acid sources (nuts, lean meats); 3) high-quality carbs (for example, beans, peas, and lentils); 4) phyto-nutrients (plant foods containing antioxidants and other helpful substances, like blueberries, cilantro, etc.).

Finally, Dr. Hyman observes that, since more than 90% of Americans don’t get adequate nutrients from food (a finding of an often-cited US government survey), people realistically will need to supplement at least periodically in several key categories: 1) a multivitamin; 2) fish oil (omega fatty acids); 3) Calcium/Magnesium; 3) Vitamin D; 4) B complex vitamins; 5) probiotics (for good digestion/absorption of nutrients); and 6) occasionally a sleep aid like melatonin to insure a good amount of rest.

Here are some NYBC suggestions for supplementing in the categories recommended by Dr. Hyman:

Multivitamins: Added protection with Iron (Douglas) ; Added Protection without Iron (Douglas) – recommended for those with liver conditions; Opti-Pack – iron-free (SuperNutrition); Super Immune Multivitamin – iron-free (SuperNutrition)

Fish oil: Max DHA (Jarrow); ProOmega (Nordic Naturals) 60 caps; ProOmega (Nordic Naturals) 180 caps;

For Calcium, Magnesium, Vitamin D, NYBC recommends Bone-Up (Jarrow), which provides all three nutrients in the most useful dosages.

B complex vitamins: B-right (Jarrow)

Probiotics: NYBC recommends Jarrodophilus EPS (Jarrow) because it doesn’t require refrigeration. But other probiotics may be useful as well–see the Probiotics entry on the NYBC website.

NYBC also stocks Melatonin in several formats.

See Dr. Hyman on Martha Stewart:
http://www.marthastewart.com/portal/site/mslo/menuitem.3a0656639de62ad593598e10d373a0a0/?vgnextoid=0f545e9ea969e110VgnVCM1000003d370a0aRCRD&vgnextfmt=default