For humans, this means we need to get our B12 from an animal that does use microbes to make B12, such as cattle, sheep, and other sources of red meat and dairy products.
It isn’t as simple as just eating enough red meat. It needs to be the right kind of cobalamin (a generic name for the family of molecules that includes Vitamin B12 - essentially molecules with a cobalt ion in the centre (”cobal-”) and four amine rings in a square (”-amin”).
Notice how similar the name is to Vitamin (Vital for life - “Vita” and amine rings “amin”) - B12 may be the archetypal Vitamin too.
B12 has many important roles to play in the body, and one of these is to get rid of toxins. In the olden days of leaded petrol, there was a fair amount of lead in the air everyone breathed, and this would get into your blood. Even before this, we had lead water pipes and people were drinking lead in the water, and it got into people’s blood. Well, along came your ever-vigilant B12 and wrapped itself around the lead, carried it down to the kidneys, and escorted it out of the body.
B12 removes Lead, Arsenic, Cyanide, alcohol, tobacco toxic by-products, NO2 (nitrous oxide), anaesthesia used during surgical operations, an whole range of things that are bad for the body. And some medicines which work by being toxic too.
But there’s a down side. The down side is that when the B12 removes the toxin, it also removes itself.
People have puzzled why the symptoms of some poisoning looked very similar to B12 deficiency, or whether B12 deficiency produced symptoms similar to poisoning. But we have the answer, and some scientists have tested it and found it to be true.
When you smoke too much, one effect is that you create B12 deficiency because all of your body stores of B12 are used up getting rid of the nicotine and other toxic tobacco by-products. Because you have less B12 in your blood and in your body (and this has been verified), you also show signs of B12 deficiency because you also HAVE B12 deficiency. It’s possible to make some difference with B12 supplements, and it will reduce the awful feeling of a hangover (or the hangover you get after general anaesthetic), but don’t think that solves the problem really.
So just because you are taking lots of Vitamin B12 supplements, you still need a healthy lifestyle with good food, healthy exercise, rest, and avoiding toxic substances. Sorry, we can’t sort everything out with B12 supplements.
The definitive and original guide to B12 deficiency, Dr Chandy interviewed by Chris Jackson of UK BBC Inside Out Team broadcast 31 Oct 2008.
Dr Joseph Chandy explains symptoms and shows the restorative effect on one patient (other patients' families have asked that we edit out their stories unfortunately)
June describes her suffering when doctors didn't follow the standard protocol after any stomach or intestinal operation - to offer B12 replacement therapy
Dr Chandy was nominated for the North East Local Heroes award. The interviewer was at first surprised - people don't get awards for doing what they are paid to do - but she persisted.
Janette first appeared in the BBC InsideOut documentary in October 2006. Since then the NHS has forced her doctor to withdraw B12 replacement therapy on a number of occasions, and she tells of her struggles with having B12 and then having it taken away.
She has bravely agreed to be filmed without her usual wig, but her memory is playing up because it is so long since her last injection.
The local MP (Grahame Morris MP for Easington - who was a BMS (BioMedical Scientist) in the labs at Sunderland Royal Infirmary) interviews people with B12 deficiency to hear their story (August 27 2010). Here Jane describes the symptoms, and how she can't wait for her next B12 injection (in fact, she knows that she needs injections every 2 weeks because she's keeping a diary of the symptoms). We're restricted how often the GP can give injections, which is why we want to raise awareness.
Donna, like so many women, wants to live a normal life. Vitamin B12 could give her that chance.
Susan gets very tired, which isn't much fun especially as she has so much to do. Here she tells her story.
Frankie tells of how she suffered, the tests she had to endure until doctors worked out what was wrong, and what a difference it has made.
The Scottish Parliament discusses Pernicious Anaemia and vitamin B12 deficiency on Wednesday 7 March 2012.
This video is over 1 hour long and represents real political change - we are at last on our way.
Julia found her eyesight going as her eyes refused to focus on the same things as each other. She's been for all sorts of tests and treatment, but now that she's on B12 replacement therapy she's starting to see an improvement.