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1948: Vitamin B12

The Following Content Provided by USANA, the Cellular Nutrition Company
Vitamin B12 was isolated in 1948 by two teams working independently in the US and UK, from a substance in the liver and named cobalamin.

We now know that the liver contains a high concentration of vitamin B12. 21

Vitamin B12, like the rest of the B vitamins, help convert food into energy.  They are also needed to support healthy skin, hair, eyes, and liver development.  It is especially important for maintaining healthy nerve cells and helps support the production DNA and RNA.

People who are at risk for Vitamin B12 deficiency include vegetarians, vegans, and the elderly. 22

Nutritionnal Bite links: 21, 22

The following content provided by the University of Maryland Medical Center
A Fatal Form of Anaemia:
In 1824 a fatal form of anaemia associated with degeneration of the stomach was described by J.S. Combe in Edinburgh in his article entitled "History of a Case of Anaemia". Similar case reports were later described in 1849 by Thomas Addison, a physician at Guy’s Hospital.  In 1872 Biermer, working in Switzerland, coined the concept of this as a "pernicious anaemia" based on the inevitably fatal outcome of this disorder.

Raw Liver Diets:
This disease remained totally incurable until 1926 when two US physicians, Minot and Murphy, described giving patients a diet made of raw liver that miraculously cured the symptoms of pernicious anaemia.  Their discovery was actually prompted by experiments made six years earlier by George Whipple.  Whipple had found that feeding raw liver to dogs, who had been made anaemic by bleeding, regenerated hemoglobin.

Liver extracts were later found to be able to reverse the anaemia not only in dogs, but also in humans.  The discovery of this curious anti-pernicious or "extrinsic" factor is one of the most fascinating events in the history of medicine; Minot, Murphy and Whipple went on to share the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1934 for this work.

In 1955 Dorothy Hodgkin, a British chemist, worked out the very complex chemical structure of this large molecule, using a technique called X-Ray crystallography.  Hodgkin was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1964, partly for this monumental achievement, but also for determining the structure of penicillin.

The production of vitamin B12 on an industrial scale in the early 1950s has enabled its worldwide medical application to treat pernicious anaemia.


Vitamin B12, also called cobalamin, is one of 8 B vitamins. All B vitamins help the body convert food (carbohydrates) into fuel (glucose), which is used to produce energy. These B vitamins, often referred to as B complex vitamins, also help the body use fats and protein. B complex vitamins are needed for healthy skin, hair, eyes, and liver. They also help the nervous system function properly.

All B vitamins are water soluble, meaning that the body does not store them.

Vitamin B12 is an especially important vitamin for maintaining healthy nerve cells, and it helps in the production of DNA and RNA, the body's genetic material. Vitamin B12 works closely with vitamin B9, also called folate or folic acid, to help make red blood cells and to help iron work better in the body. Folate and B12 work together to produce S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), a compound involved in immune function and mood.

Vitamins B12, B6, and B9 work together to control blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine. High levels of homocysteine are associated with heart disease. However, researchers are not sure whether homocysteine is a cause of heart disease or just a marker that indicates someone may have heart disease.

It is rare for young people to be deficient in vitamin B12, but it is not uncommon for older people to be mildly deficient. This may be because their diets are not as healthy, or because they have less stomach acid, which the body needs to absorb B12. Low levels of B12 can cause a range of symptoms including:


Shortness of breath




Tingling sensation in the fingers and toes

Severe deficiency of B12 causes nerve damage
People with problems absorbing nutrients due to Crohn disease, pancreatic disease, weight loss surgery, or medications

People who are infected with Helicobacter pylori, an organism in the intestines that can cause an ulcer. H. pylori damages stomach cells that make intrinsic factor, a substance the body needs to absorb B12

People with an eating disorder

People with HIV

People with diabetes

The elderly
Folic acid (vitamin B9), especially when taken in high doses, can mask the symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency. The danger is that without symptoms, someone with a vitamin B12 deficiency may not know it, and could run the risk of developing nerve damage. You should talk to your doctor first if you plan to take more than 800 mcg of folic acid, to make sure you do not have a B12 deficiency.

Heart disease
Many studies suggest that people with high levels of the amino acid homocysteine are almost two times more likely to develop coronary artery disease and 2.5 times more likely to have a stroke than those with normal levels. B complex vitamins, especially vitamins B9, B6, and B12, help lower homocysteine levels. However, researchers do not know whether high homocysteine levels actually cause heart disease.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
One large study found that women who took 1,000 mcg of vitamin B12, along with 2500 mcg of folic acid and 500 mg of vitamin B6 daily, reduced the risk of developing AMD, an eye disease that can cause loss of vision.

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