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Crucial Supplements for Good Health: Vitamin D & B12

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Many people find that they are often deficient in vitamin B12 and vitamin D at the same time. Is there a reason for this? The science provides several answers and poses a few unanswered questions.

Vitamin deficiency is more common than you think. Over half the population is low in vitamin D, and up to 15 percent is deficient in vitamin B12. Unfortunately, inadequate amounts of either of these nutrients can be dangerous for your health.

Numerous diseases like cancer, Alzheimer's, depression, osteoporosis, Crohn's Disease, and cardiovascular disease are all linked to low levels of both vitamin B 12 and vitamin D. However, the physiological relationship between these two vitamins is still unclear.

What is the Connection Between Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D?

Many people find that they are often deficient in vitamin B12 and vitamin D at the same time. Is there a reason for this? The science provides several answers and poses a few unanswered questions.

A Common Denominator is Often Responsible

While medical science has yet to show that vitamin D and B12 are linked in the sense that one can trigger the other, the research indicates that there is often a common denominator responsible for both deficiencies.

For instance, vegans and vegetarians usually need to take supplements of both vitamins to keep their levels high because they aren't consuming many (if any) animal products.

A study from the Indian Journal of Occupational Environmental Medicine on 75 office executives in Mumbai, India found that 65% were vitamin B12 deficient and 28% were vitamin D deficient. In their case, both deficiencies were likely caused by a predominately vegetarian diet and little time spent in the sun due to long work hours.

Gastric bypass surgery is another common cause of vitamin D and B12 deficiency, as it reduces the stomach space available for nutrient absorption and speeds up the digestion process.

Similarities in Absorption Levels

The way your body absorbs both vitamins also has some similarities. Vitamin D requires fat in your diet and a healthy pancreas and intestine. While vitamin B12 doesn't need dietary fat, your body can't absorb it if your pancreas or intestinal lining is compromised.

Requirements for Both Increase as You Age

Your body's need for both vitamins goes up as you age. This is because of natural physiological changes that take place in your body, including the prevalence of gastritis (an inability to produce adequate stomach acid) in the elderly that lowers their vitamin B12 absorption rates.

Likewise, old skin loses its ability to synthesize vitamin D efficiently, and the kidneys are less able to turn vitamin D2 into the necessary D3.

Both Reduce Risk of Developing Cancer

Research published in Dynamic Chiropractic notes that there is emerging evidence that lower than recommended levels of both vitamins can raise your risk of developing breast, colon, prostate, and other cancers.

Under research conditions, vitamin D has been found to decrease the proliferation rate of cancer cells, and sufficient levels of vitamin B12 are credited with helping new cells produce well-formed DNA.

Deficiencies in Both May Lead to Anemia

Many studies link low vitamin D levels with a higher risk of anemia. One study of pregnant women in Tanzania found that those with low vitamin D levels were at higher risk of anemia, and a U.S. study found that people with anemia were more likely to have low levels of vitamin D as well.

A deficiency in both vitamins can lead to anemia, a sluggish metabolism, and difficulties with your nervous system. Because one primary cause of anemia is low dietary iron and vitamin B12, it stands to reason that the two are interconnected in ways that scientific research hasn't fully revealed yet.

How to Keep Your Levels of Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D High

While vitamin D and B12 don't necessarily work off each other, they also don't compromise each other. This means that it's often recommended to take both vitamins together to stave off deficiencies in both.

If you find yourself low on these crucial vitamins, the two best options are to increase their prevalence in your diet or to take a daily supplement. The standard adult dosage of vitamin B12 is 2.4 mcg per day and 1,000-2,000IU for vitamin D. Those who get little to no sun exposure might need to boost their levels to 5,000IU per day.

After several weeks of supplementation, you might need to undergo blood work to assess if your levels have reached a healthy range.

Not only are vitamin B12 and D entirely safe to consume together, but they are also commonly found in the same foods. Fatty fish, eggs, liver, whole milk, and fortified foods are all excellent sources of both nutrients.

Staying on top of your nutrient levels is critical to your overall wellbeing. By monitoring your vitamin D and B12 levels and modifying them when necessary, you will stave off your risk of many diseases in the future.