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, Natural Alternatives, Issue #04
September 03, 2005
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IN THIS ISSUE:
1) 12 POINTS ON VITAMIN B12
2) ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS AND DIETARY FATS
12 POINTS ON VITAMIN B12
All the information presented here is from a summary of all the available research on Vitamin B12 over approximately 50 years by Jack Norris in his lengthy paper Vitamin B12: Are You Getting It? It is particularly aimed at vegetarians and vegans.
1. Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient. The chemical names for the active forms of B12 found in foods are adenosylcobalamin, hydroxocobalamin and methylcobalamin. The usual synthetic form of the vitamin is cyanocobalamin which occurs only in small amounts naturally. The Recommended Daily Allowance (USA) is 6 micrograms per day. This increases by 10 micrograms during pregnancy and 1 microgram during lactation. In foods vitamin B12 it at its highest in liver at around 100 and kidney at 55 micrograms per 100g. The oily fish contain 4-12; white fish 0-2; red meats 1-3 and white meats 0-2 micrograms per 100g. Eggs contain 2.5 and cheese 1-1.5 micrograms per 100g. Animal fats such as butter contain only trace levels.
2. If taken orally as a constituent of foods, it is combined with first one factor called R-protein and later with intrinsic factor (both of which are produced in the stomach). This avoids its degradation by bacteria or its digestion so that it can it be absorbed in the small intestine. Passive (unbound) absorption accounts for only 1-3% of the total absorption.
3. Vitamin B12 is a coenzyme, that is, it is required by at least 2 enzymes for their functionality. The first breaks down homocysteine to methionine. The other breaks down methylmalonyl-CoA to succinyl-CoA; if this does not occur then the methylmalonyl-CoA is converted to methylmalonic acid (MMA). Serum or urine levels of MMA are the most reliable test for B12 deficiency.
4. Vitamin B12 is stored in the liver and muscles and in the absence of intake these stores can last between 5 months and 30 years before deficiency symptoms become apparent. This makes symptoms due to deficiency difficult to track to any previous dietary changes. Early deficiency symptoms include unusual fatigue, faulty digestion, no appetite, nausea, and loss of menstruation. Later symptoms include numbness and tingling of the hands and feet (which are when advanced considered symptoms of irreversible nerve damage), nervousness, diarrhoea, mild depression, striking behavioural changes, paranoia, hyperactive reflexes, fever, frequent upper respiratory infections, impotence, impaired memory, infertility, sore tongue, enlargement of the mucous membranes of the mouth, vagina, and stomach, macrocytic (pernicious) anemia, low platelet count and increased bleeding, and neutropenia. Not all symptoms occur in all cases of deficiency. Additionally since deficiency of B12 leads to elevated homocysteine levels it contributes to its resulting varied pathology including arterial disease.
5. Several factors beside inadequate intake can result in deficiency. Vitamin B12 is protein-bound in foods and requires good protein digestion to be utilised. In 2% of people there is faulty absorption due to for example an inadequate level of intrinsic factor. B12 absorption also requires normal levels of absorption in the small intestine, with relevance in for example, Crohn’s Disease.
6. Vitamin B12 is contained within a group of chemicals called corrinoids which occur in foods. The corrinoids close to B12 are termed B12 analogues and may be active or inactive in the body. Some inactive B12 analogues can be active in bone marrow but not in nervous tissue, thus making a diagnosis of deficiency by the presenting symptoms difficult. Current chemical analysis is not able to assess whether the analogue is active or inactive. This can only be verified by feeding the food to a human and testing the resulting MMA level. Inactive analogues interfere with (active) vitamin B12, quickening the onset of symptoms in marginal cases.
7. As of 2004 no plant sources of vitamin B12 had been found, though many had been tested including various seaweeds, algae and fermented foods. Where claims have been made as to B12 being present in a plant source it has not been based on the test for MMA levels, and any subsequent tests have found no reduction in MMA, proving the presence only of inactive analogues.
8. Vitamin B12 is produced in the human intestine by some of the bacteria naturally present. A study in the 1950’s verified that vegans with pernicious anaemia could be returned to normality by isolating the B12 analogues from their faeces and feeding them back orally, where it could be combined with intrinsic factor. This proved that the forms produced in the intestines contain active B12 analogues, but that insufficient is absorbed passively to prevent deficiency. It is assumed that passive absorption from B12 produced by gut bacteria in herbivorous animals is adequate due to the increased length of, and increased fermentation time in, their intestines. Additionally many “herbivores” eat insects and faeces.
9. A group of Finnish people living solely on fermented vegetable foods believed that vitamin B12 was produced by the fermentation processes. When their MMA levels were checked over a certain period they were found to be increasing, proving that externally fermented foods do not contain B12, but only its inactive analogues.
10. Vitamin B12 can be destroyed by cooking for a long enough time. There is thus an advantage to eating some raw animal protein. Raw food vegans however, have not been shown to have any advantage over other vegetarian groups.
11. It is likely that some mental and balance symptoms common in the elderly are the result directly of vitamin B12 deficiency. Much of this will be as a result of poorer protein digestion within this age-group. Two literature reviews also note that homocysteine and MMA levels are often raised in Alzheimer’s Disease. In such cases sublingual drops of the synthetic vitamin will be maximally effective in combating deficiency since they by-pass the complex absorption process in the intestines.
12. Several foods are fortified with a synthetic form of the vitamin, including most yeast extracts and many breakfast cereals. This is how many vegans are maintaining their levels of B12. This method of obtaining B12 is highly risky since levels cannot be guaranteed in each of these foods. The only sure way for a vegan to maintain levels of the vitamin is to take a synthetic form as a supplement.
This article was forwarded by: Douglas Morrison www.howweheal.com
2) ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS AND DIETARY FATS
1. There are two essential fatty acids or EFAs; these essential nutrients have been shown by leading researchers to be necessary for both the optimum health of the body as well as for freedom from degenerative disease. They are known as Omega 3 (alpha-linolenic acid or ALNA) and Omega 6 (linoleic acid or LA).
2. In addition to these two EFAs, there are certain derivatives of each that some people do not produce in adequate amounts themselves so as to meet their own needs. Therefore, some people will also require a dietary source of these EFA derivatives as well. Biochemical individuality is an important concept to comprehend in this regard. (Refer to Biochemical Individuality by Roger Williams for more info on this subject.) Among these EFA derivatives that some people may require from dietary sources are gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
3. Along with proteins, minerals, other lipids, and sugars, EFAs are building blocks of cell membranes and various internal cell structures.
4. EFAs are necessary for the metabolism and transportation of triglycerides and cholesterol.
5. EFAs are necessary for the development and the function of the human brain.
6. EFAs are necessary for proper function of the vision, nervous system, adrenal glands, and testes, playing a vital role in sperm formation and conception.
7. EFAs boost metabolism, metabolic rate, energy production, and oxygen uptake. Some researchers suggest EFAs are necessary in order for us to properly utilize sunlight.
8. EFAs, particularly Omega 3, have been shown to decrease growth of cancer cells, candida, and various anaerobic organisms destructive to the health of the human body.
9. In the November 1986 Journal of the National Cancer Institute, research indicated that Omega 3 and one of its derivatives as well as three of the derivatives of Omega 6 were seen to selectively destroy human cancer cells in tissue culture without damaging normal cells.
10. Dr. Johanna Budwig, a German M.D. and biochemist, discovered that the blood of cancer patients was deficient in EFAs. A yellow-green pigment was found in place of the normal red blood pigment or hemoglobin. Along with certain dietary improvements, she gave her patients one and a half ounces (45 ml) or more of fresh flax oil as a means of getting EFAs into the body (flax oil is 55-65% Omega 3 and 15-25% Omega 6). The flax oil was consumed in combination with various dairy products to provide the sulfur proteins which Budwig considered necessary for the EFAs to be properly utilized by the body. On this program, which included no other supplements, she found that within three months the yellow-green was replaced by red and the cancer disappeared.
11. EFAs can be precursors to hormone like substances known as the prostaglandins. There are three main groups of these, which are known as PG1s, PG2s, and PG3s. Prostaglandins govern or influence many bodily processes including platelet stickiness in the blood, arterial muscle tone, inflammatory response, sodium and fluid excretion through the kidneys, and immune function.
12. PG1s are derived from the Omega 6 family of fatty acids. Omega 6 (LA) can be changed into gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which in turn can be changed into dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA). PG1s are made from DGLA. PG1s prevent blood platelets from sticking together, assist in removing excess sodium as well as fluid, relax blood vessels, decrease inflammation, help insulin work more efficiently, benefit nerve function, regulate calcium metabolism, and improve immune function. People whose bodies do not efficiently make all of the above conversions may not manufacture sufficient PG1s from Omega 6 alone, but may require dietary sources of certain Omega 6 derivatives, most notably GLA.
13. PG2s are also derived from the Omega 6 family of fatty acids. As noted previously, LA can be converted into GLA, which can be converted into DGLA. DGLA in turn can be converted into arachidonic acid (AA). PG2s are derived from AA. Different PG2s can either prevent or promote blood platelet aggregation. PG2s can promote water and sodium retention as well as inflammation. In general, PG2s oppose the PG1s, and are secreted in response to stress. Left unchecked, overproduction of PG2s can lead to all sorts of health problems associated with increased inflammation, decreased immune function, constricted blood vessels, increased sodium and fluid retention, and increased platelet stickiness. Some of the many health problems that may be associated with unchecked PG2 production in response to stress include cardiovascular disease, strokes, arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes, and various immune disorders. One basic mechanism of keeping the PG2s in check is a PG1 known as PGE1, which slows the release of AA thus preventing its conversion into PG2s.
14. PG3s are made from the Omega 3 family of fatty acids. Omega 3 (LNA) can be changed into stearidonic acid (SDA). SDA can be converted into eicosatetraenoic acid (ETA), which in turn can be converted into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). PG3s are made from EPA. EPA is of enormous importance, as it also prevents AA from being available for PG2 production. As noted by Udo Erasmus, "EPA is the single most important factor limiting PG2 production." Certain fish oils are abundant sources of EPA. People whose bodies do not efficiently make all of the above conversions may require a dietary source of certain Omega 3 derivatives, most notably EPA. People whose ancestors consumed large amounts of EPA rich fish for many generations often do not efficiently manufacture their own EPA and must rely upon a dietary source such as certain types of fish.
15. The ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 is also crucial, as excess Omega 6 as compared to Omega 3 promotes tumor formation. Research suggests that the ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 should be no greater than 5:1. Many experts suggest that the ideal ratio is as low as 2:1 or even 1:1 based on the ratio found in many healthy traditional diets. A typical ratio in most people's diets is in excess of 20:1. This is largely the result of increased consumption of various vegetable oils in the past century or so, most of which contain massive amounts of omega 6 and little or no omega 3.
16. Highly unsaturated fats are chemically unstable and thus highly prone to rancidity and other detrimental changes due to exposure to light, oxygen, or heat. This includes any rich source of EFAs and in fact any oil, whether from a plant or animal source. It is best to avoid any heated oils, or any oils that have had sufficient exposure to light, oxygen, or heat so as to damage them. For human consumption, oils need to be processed and stored in a highly specific manner, and consumed fairly soon after pressing. Any deviation from these standards can pose some degree of health risk from their consumption. The modern diet contains a huge quantity of vegetable oils that have been exposed to light, oxygen, and heat. This poses a massive health risk to anyone consuming such a diet. No matter the quality of an oil in its ideal state, once exposed sufficiently to light, oxygen, or heat, it becomes detrimental to our health.
17. Both Omega 3 and 6 are extremely sensitive to deterioration in the presence of light, oxygen, and heat. Any or all of these will cause oil to go rancid very rapidly, thus making it of no benefit and, in fact, detrimental to the health of our bodies. For this reason it is imperative that oil be manufactured, processed, stored, and shipped in the utter absence of light, oxygen, and heat. There are seed oils available that meet these exacting standards. Certified organic seeds are processed, bottled and stored in the absence of light, oxygen, and heat. Any oils made from seeds or nuts should be organic, as most pesticides are fat soluble and will therefore concentrate in the oil. Inert black plastic bottles are used which will not react with the oil. Any type of glass container, even dark brown glass, allows enough light in to cause rancidity. Indeed, of the three factors mentioned, light is by far the most detrimental, causing rancidity over 1000 times as rapidly as the next worse, which is oxygen. Inert gas is utilized during manufacture and bottling to insure the absence of oxygen. A special technology is utilized to maintain low temperatures (below 96 degrees F) during processing. Most so-called "cold-pressed" oils have reached temperatures of 160 degrees F or more as a result of friction during the extraction process. Once opened, a bottle should be kept refrigerated and used within two to four weeks ideally. Unopened bottles are best kept frozen. (Freezing may extend shelf-life of unopened bottles to six months or even longer, but we encourage you to treat this oil as the perishable item that it is for best results).
18. Fish oils are also highly vulnerable to detrimental transformation due to light, oxygen, and heat exposure during processing. Fish oils from wild fish such as cod liver oil are the most abundant source of vitamin D by a wide margin. Yet there are legitimate concerns with the presence of various chemicals potentially found in fish oils. (Note: mercury is not fat soluble and hence not a specific concern with fish oil, yet there are numerous other contaminants which are legitimate concerns.) There are sources of cod liver oil from Iceland available which have been extensively tested and shown to have extremely low levels of these toxins as compared to other sources. Anyone consuming fish oils would be wise to investigate their own source for this reason and assure that it is the purest available.
19. There are at least four different vitamin D factors. Vitamin D2 (viosterol or irradiated ergosterol) is available from plant sources or as a synthetic. Vitamin D3 (irradiated cholesterol) only comes from animal sources. As noted by Weston Price, "It is now recognized that activated ergosterol vitamin D2 does not represent the factors essential for the utilization of calcium and phosphorous by the human body." The human body requires vitamin D3, available only from animal sources. Synthetic or plant sources of "vitamin D" supplements will be list potency in IU without noting the absence of necessary vitamin D3, or that even by the most generous estimates vitamin D2 is no better than 9.5 times weaker than vitamin D3.
20. It appears that individual needs for EFAs in the diet may vary considerably. Ancestry no doubt plays a huge role in this individuality. Saturated fats are far more stable than monounsaturated fats, which in turn are more stable than polyunsaturated fats such as the EFAs. The melting point of saturated fats is higher than that of monounsaturated fats, which in turn is higher than that of polyunsaturated fats. Compare, for example, butter, olive oil, and flax oil. Rancidity is a greater concern as temperature increases. Flexibility becomes a greater concern as temperature decreases. If we observe both plants and animals at various latitudes and climates, it is clear that there is a tradeoff between chemical stability and flexibility, with different results in different climates or latitudes. In warmer climates and lower latitudes, saturated fats tend to predominate as rancidity becomes the greater issue. In colder climates and higher latitudes, a lack of flexibility becomes the greater issue, and thus polyunsaturated fats tend to predominate. In the middle latitudes, monounsaturated fats may make the most sense. The food chain in colder climates thus tends to have a much greater EFA content than that in warmer climates. Therefore, for example, a person of Scandinavian ancestry may require far more EFAs in the diet than a person of Indian ancestry, for the simple reason that their ancestral diets were vastly different as far as EFA content.
21. Bear in mind that the ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 is crucial. Omega 6 is contained in many vegetable seed oils and seeds, the best sources being safflower (75%), sunflower (65%), corn (59%), and sesame (45%). These oils contain only small amounts of Omega 3, however, less than 1%. Thus, high consumption of such oils will produce an extremely unsafe excess of omega 6 to omega 3, with various detrimental consequences as outlined above.
22. There are few rich vegetable sources of Omega 3. Pumpkin seed oil (0-15%), soy bean oil (7-9%), walnut oil (3-11%), and hemp oil (20%) all contain Omega 3. By far the richest source of Omega 3 is flax oil, which is 55-65% Omega 3 as well as 15-25% Omega 6. Flax oil therefore can be used to correct an excess of omega 6 compared to omega 3 in the diet. But it should be noted that the ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 in flax oil is too low to be considered ideal. Therefore, if a person were to consume large amounts of flax oil without some dietary source of omega 6 to counteract this, they would eventually develop an excess of omega 3 in their tissues and consequent health problems. One such problem will be lowered immune function. For this reason, it is best to either balance flax oil consumption with a rich source of omega 6, or better yet to use an oil blend with a more ideal ratio of the two EFAs. And of course to make sure this oil has not been exposed to light, oxygen, or heat during processing, storage, or transport.
23. In the 1950s Dr. Max Gerson successfully used fresh flax oil to dissolve tumours, using about one ounce (30 ml) per day. According to Udo Erasmus, author of Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill, flax oil has the following benefits:
Its Omega 3s lower high blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels by as much as 25% and 65% respectively. It will decrease the probability of a clot blocking an artery and lower high blood pressure.
Omega 3s dissolve tumours, as shown by the work of Gerson, Budwig, and others.
Will aid in the treatment and prevention of diabetes, arthritis, asthma, PMS, allergies, and inflammatory tissue conditions.
Also of great benefit with skin conditions, vitality, stress, and virtually all degenerative conditions.
24. While no one nutrient can effectively cure, treat, or prevent disease, it is important to recognize that the absence of one key nutrient even when all others are present can effectively limit the benefits one might expect. Hence the need for EFAs along with enzymes, minerals, vitamins, and amino acids to insure the presence of all essential nutrients in conjunction.
25. Non-essential fatty acids may compete for a vital enzyme known as D-6-D, thus an excess of non-essential fatty acids may result in a functional deficiency of EFAs. Some researchers suggest that the ratio of non-essential to essential fatty acids should therefore be no more than 1:1. (A typical ratio for most people is in excess of 10:1, with almost all of the essential fatty acids being Omega 6.)
26. Yet it can be readily observed that many healthy traditional cultures (as documented in Weston A. Price's classic Nutrition and Physical Degeneration and elsewhere) consumed diets with massive quantities of non-essential fatty acids from various animal fats, as compared to relatively modest amounts of EFAs. The ratio of non-essential to essential fatty acids in such diets would have been fairly high in many instances. It should be noted that large amounts of these fats were consumed in a raw form, thus also providing an abundant source of lipase enzymes to digest these fats. It can be surmised that in such circumstances that the ratio of non-essential to essential fatty acids becomes of little concern, as with an abundance of enzymes it is no problem for the body to make good use of these fats. It might further be surmised that people on a healthy traditional diet will have a much higher level of metabolic efficiency in all regards, and will thus be less prone to metabolic breakdowns of all sorts.
27. We can obtain EFAs from both plant and animal sources. But animal fats are the only dietary source of vitamin A and vitamin D, and are therefore necessary for our health. All healthy cultures studied by Weston Price consumed large amounts of animal fats. Sources included butter, eggs, dairy products from various animals, fish, shellfish, fish eggs, animal flesh from muscle and organ meats, insects, etc. When comparing these healthy traditional diets with the modernized diets of that time (the 1930s), Dr. Price noted that these traditional diets typically contained at least TEN times the level of fat soluble vitamins and other fat soluble nutrients as the modernized diets utilizing various processed foods. It is likely that comparing these same traditional diets with the current typical diet that this ratio would be even greater than ten to one. Since the 1930s, consumption of animal fats has continued to decrease, while consumption of vegetable oils (mostly highly processed) has increased considerably, both trends being much to our detriment.
28. Liver is the richest source of vitamin A by a wide margin. Yet there are legitimate concerns with possible toxins present in animal livers due to exposure to pesticides and other chemicals. For this reason, it is wise to only consume liver from healthy organic animals which were properly fed and not otherwise exposed to known sources of pesticides and other chemicals. A clean source of cod liver oil is a good potential source of vitamin A as well as vitamin D.
29. The amount of vitamin A, vitamin D, and other fat soluble nutrients present in animal fats is in part a function of the diet of the source animal. Weston Price clearly demonstrated that cows, in order to produce butter of high vitamin and nutrient content, required rapidly growing grass. As a result, the best butter will be produced at certain times of the year when the grass is at its peak. When cows have access to grass that is still fairly short (about the stage where it is forming its first joint or less), this is considered ideal. For this reason, it is best for cows to rotate from one pasture to the next to assure continued access to the best stage of grass. Butter from cows fed ideal grass such as this will be much darker or more yellow in color and far softer than butter of poor nutritional quality. It is also best for this butter to be made from raw organic cream.
30. Another excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin D, and other fat soluble nutrients is high quality eggs. Just as cows need access to grass in order to produce optimum butter, chickens require access to greenery as well. Chickens fed in this manner will produce eggs of a higher nutrient content. These eggs will have harder shells and the yolks will be a dark orange rather than the pale yellow that results from the typical diet fed to chickens nowadays. Due to a lack of greens in the diet of the chickens, many organic free range eggs have flimsy shells and pale yellow yolks.
31. Sally Fallon notes that, "Highly protective lauric acid should be called a conditionally essential fatty acid because it is the one saturated fat that the body does not make itself." Lauric acid is notably anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial. There are only two rich dietary sources: coconut oil and butter. It is also abundant in human breast milk, a solid indication of its value to human beings. Clearly coconut oil and/or butter have been consumed abundantly by numerous healthy traditional people in both the past and present.
32. There are numerous other excellent sources of animal fats. A good source of information on this is the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. Weston Price's Nutrition and Physical Degeneration is also highly recommended. A good general rule is to consume foods that have a good historical track record. It is best to be cautious and sceptical as far as new foods, new methods of growing or raising foods, or new methods of processing foods.
33. In summary, a healthy diet will contain an abundance and a variety of mostly raw animals fats from healthy and properly fed animals. This will provide an abundant source of vitamin A, vitamin D, and many other necessary fat soluble nutrients. Highly processed, heated, and otherwise unsafe vegetable oils should be avoided. To assure a good supply of EFAs, it may also be wise to consume one ounce (30 ml) daily of a fresh and properly processed flax oil blend with a proper ratio of EFAs.
*PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE!*
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