Thursday, 10 April 2014

What's this about B12?


My name is B12, before I had that moniker I was known as 'maturation factor', geeks and scientists call me cobalamin. That's all pretty irrelevant because today I'm going to tell you what I do. But before I do that, know this; I am one of 8 B vitamins. Without me you would be miserable. I am synthesised by bacteria and archaea (single cell organisms) both of which are found plentiful in soil among other places. Mammals like yourself must obtain me directly or indirectly from bacteria. I am found in most 'good quality' animal derived foods such as fish, meat, poultry, eggs and milk. However if you subject these foods to high temperature before consuming them you will either kill me or scar me so bad I will no longer be able to fulfil your needs.

Cows, pigs, chicken and fish DO NOT make me in their bodies, I am as stated above, synthesised by bacteria  and I resides in animal flesh. I am not found in plants in particularly large amounts, so if you are one of those "plant based dudes", you know, one of those really skinny people, you know, the people who don't eat any protein, you better make sure you find me somewhere..... Blah, blah, blah! Open this link

Jim Morris (vegan) aged 61yrs, 73yrs and 75yrs in these pics!

So now you are intrigued, I'm going to tell you what I do. 

I make my way from the soil into your food and from there I have a treacherous journey before I enter your body. I'm far too tiny to be affected by the chewing process in your mouth but soon after I find myself in the dark acidic environment of your stomach. This place is too in-hostile for me and I'd never make it through if it wasn't for my friend 'intrinsic factor' (Intrinsic Factor is secreted by the parietal cells in your stomach) who shields me and lends me a protective coat while I pass through this acidic abyss.

Since I'm not found in plants, anybody on a plant based diet needs to supplement with me from time to time. Before you big strong meat eaters and butter lovers start rapping on those skinny vegans you better be sure your parietal cells are operating at full function otherwise you too will be at the peril of my demise. Research has shown that high intake of red meat, chicken and alcohol can all damage the parietal cells, which create  your "stomach lining" and protection.

Once I pass through the stomach, its fairly plain sailing for me if you are healthy. If not I might encounter some problems. Your gut wall has a huge flora of bacteria, if there are too many colonies of bad bacteria due to excess refined sugar and meat intake I may run into more trouble. In a healthy gut with good flora I can pass through this permeable wall and find myself in your blood stream, where I am escorted immediately to your liver.

I mentioned above that I was once know as 'maturation factor', that was a long time ago. It was a primitive but apt name. You see my job in your body is to monitor all your cellular activity and ensure that your cells mature properly. An unmonitored cell is like an unmonitored teenager, they go a little crazy. I find the red blood cells and epithelial cells to be most problematic.
Cell maturation is something I specialise in alone. When I am with my 6 counterparts we maintain the health of your whole nervous system. 

Red blood cells are like teenage boys in a gym with a bag of steroids, they just keep getting bigger and bigger. They get so big that soon they are too big to pass through the smallest (capillaries) vessels in your body. When this happens to a mammal it is said to be anaemic. But not just any anaemic (there are three main types of anaemia), they say you are macrocytic (large size) normochromic (normal colour) anaemia, also know as pernicious anaemia.
Anaemia in a mammal means gaseous effusion at a cellular level is hampered in some way.

Red blood cells are tiny. There are approximately 5 million RBC's in a cubic milimeter of blood. A capillary has a diameter to allow one RBC to pass through it at a time. That's how small RBC's are. 

Macrocytic normochromic anaemia means large cell but normal colour (good haemoglobin) of cells. Just like I stated before with the teenage boy analogy, these cells are too large and can not complete their function as a result of being too wide. Had the colour been too pale in the cell or had there been too few cells this would cause one of the other two types of anaemia. Normocytic (normal size) hypochromic (low colour) anaemia; these guys are low in iron and can not carry adequate oxygen around your body. And normocytic (normal size) normochromic (normal colour) anaemia; these guys are bleeding or have a malignant cancer and as a result now have a low red blood cell count. These doesn't really concern me so I'll move on.

The signs and symptoms of any anaemia regardless of its type will all be the same; pale skin, very low energy, tired all the time, dizziness and a rapid bounding pulse. You may have some or all of these symptoms. They come about because of high carbon dioxide levels in the body and therefore low oxygen levels due to inadequate gaseous exchange at a cellular level. 

Epithelial cells turn over very quickly (every 7 days in the GIT), therefore they need to mature very quickly. Without me they can't do this so they die very quickly. Mammals who are deficient in B12 present with sores along any tissues that are covered in epithelial cells. This is most likely to present in humans as a sore at the side of your mouth or tiny mouth ulcers on the inside of your mouth or tongue. If you get these annoying little mouth blips you can be sure that this is continued right along your gastro-intestinal tract, making digestion difficult and hampering nutrient absorption through the gut wall. This will also cause low energy.

Both red blood cell and epithelial deformation will result in low energy. It has be suggested that the symptoms of B12 deficiency, particularly pernicious anaemia are amongst the most under-diagnosed conditions of the western world. I don't really cause any major side effects in your body, so if you are plant based or if you really like to eat well cooked or processed meats then you really should supplement with me.

We have become more and more disconnected with our food supply over the past 50 years. Times previous to that our connection to food was stronger, fruits and vegetables were eaten right from the growing source or were not as stringently washed before consumption.This meant that some B12 bacteria made its way onto your plate and into your body much easier that it would today. Typically people were not eating animal based food at every day, let alone at every meal.

As seen before on this blog blood flow is extremely important for every runner regardless of level. If your blood in unable to deliver adequate oxygen and remove carbon dioxide you are going to slow down drastically. Distance running is an aerobic activity and requires lots of oxygen. If the transport system for oxygen is dysfunctional you'll never reach your full potential and you wont experience that feel good factor during or after running.Take care of your nutrition, take care of your gut and make sure you find your full potential.

I hope this helps explain what I (B12) do.

Run far, run fast but most of all RunSensible!