Vitamin B12 Toothpaste for Vegans

Vitamin B12 is a critically important B-complex vitamins due to its role in metabolic processes in the body that require another critical vitamin, folic acid. Details of the functions of B12 can be found in my website so I will only briefly mention them here:

Vitamin B12 (the bioactive derivatives of the vitamin) is required for only two reactions in humans but deficiencies in vitamin B12 result in the trapping of one bioactive form of folic acid resulting in a loss in the ability to synthesis the building blocks (nucleotides) of DNA. The developmental consequences to a fetus in utero can be profound, and in children and adults can lead to significant anemia. In addition to anemia, vitamin B12 deficiency results in methylmalonic acidemia which results in disturbances in nerve function in the brain which is first noticed as tingling and pain in the toes and fingertips (peripheral neuropathy). Another serious complication of chronic vitamin B12 deficiency is an elevation in the level of homocysteine in the blood. There is a direct correlation between elevated serum homocysteine and the development of atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease, as well as the potential for deep vein thromboses.

Deficiencies in vitamin B12 are common in individuals who do not consume animal products, such as vegetarians and vegans, or in those individuals that have problems with absorption of the vitamin from the small intestines. An awareness of the potential for vitamin B12 deficiency in vegans has increased, yet many still do not add oral, sublingual, or nasal spray vitamin B12 supplements to their dietary regimen.

A recent report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition demonstrates the results of a 12-week study where vegan volunteers used a vitamin B12 fortified toothpaste as a means to determine if this was a safe, convenient, and effective means to prevent deficiency of the vitamin.

Vitamin B-12–fortified toothpaste improves vitamin status in vegans: a 12-wk randomized placebo-controlled study

In this study, which was a double-blind randomized placebo controlled study, 76 vegans participated all of whom were healthy males and females who had practiced a vegan dietary lifestyle for a minimum of five years. All potential participants who exhibited signs of vitamin B12 deficiency or who had received high dose vitamin B12 treatment or who had conditions that would affect vitamin B12 markers such as renal or liver dysfunction were excluded from the study. Individuals who were pregnant, breast feeding, had anemia, or disorders of gastrointestinal function such as malabsorption, were using vitamin B12 fortified toothpaste already, or who were taking oral contraceptives were also excluded from the study. The only non-exclusion was reporting of over-the-counter vitamin B12 supplementation.

No changes to the participants regular lifestyles were required during the study except that the participants were asked to abstain from taking new supplements or from using fortified foods they were not already consuming. Of the study participants 53 reported using vitamin B12-containing supplements. The amount of vitamin B12 (as the cyanocobalmin form, which is that normally absorbed from the gut following ingestion) delivered in a standard dollop of toothpaste was 100 micrograms.

Without detailing all of the study findings the outcomes were significant in that all the participants who received the vitamin B12 fortified toothpaste showed increased serum vitamin B12 levels, reduced serum homocysteine levels, and reduced serum methylmalonic acid levels. The result from this study clearly demonstrated that the use of vitamin B12-fortified toothpaste is a highly effective and functional means for the acquisition of adequate bioactive vitamin B12, especially in the highest at-risk group for vitamin B12 deficiency, vegans.

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