Osteoporosis: How Vitamin B-12 Can Be the Key to Bone Health
Many women are aware that a high calcium intake can help prevent osteoporosis. But unless these women are HSI members, I know that most of them don’t know that adding a magnesium supplement can improve the body’s ability to absorb calcium. And fewer are probably aware of the emerging research that shows how a vitamin B-12 supplement can also play an important role in bone health as we age.
In a previous e-warning, I looked at a three-year study comparing B-12 levels with bone mineral density (BMD) in more than 80 women over 65 years. US researchers at the University of California found that women with the lowest levels of B-12 had a significantly higher risk of bone loss and fractures compared to women with the highest levels.
At that time, I noted that more research would be needed to confirm the link between B-12 and bone health, and that research has already begun to roll in with two new studies published since the first of the year.
The first study is similar to the University of California study, but the cohort was quite a bit larger.
Using data collected from the Framingham Offspring Osteoporosis Study, US researchers from Tufts University examined the relationship between BMD and B-12 levels in more than 2,500 men and women.
The Tufts team found that subjects of either sex who had B-12 concentrations of less than 148 pM had, on average, lower BMD compared to subjects with B-12 over 148 pM. (µM is a gram fraction measurement, and 148 µM represents the cut-off point between a sufficient B-12 level and B-12 deficiency.)
In their conclusions, the Tuft researchers wrote: B-12 deficiency can be an important modifiable risk factor for osteoporosis.
At the same time, a team of Japanese researchers in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association noted an interesting chain of compounds:
1) Stroke is linked to an increased risk of hip fracture
2) Strokes and fractures in the elderly are both linked to high homocysteine ??levels
3) The combination of B-12 and folate is known to lower homocysteine
More than 620 victims over the age of 65 were randomly divided into two groups. One group received 5 mg of folate and 1000 mcg of mecobalamin (a type of B-12) daily. The other group received a placebo. During the two-year study period, the number of cases of both groups was almost identical. However, people in the placebo group experienced more than four times as many hip fractures as subjects in the intervention group.
The function follows form
When I asked HSI Panellist Dr. Allan Spreen about his work on these studies, he began by noting, It is wonderful to see that B-12 has proven to help bone health.
B-12 is best known for its beneficial effects on nerves, from shingles to demyelination (loss of nerve function) of all kinds. More recently, its effects on helping to lower serum homocysteine ??levels have put it in the limelight (though it doesn’t do the job well if you don’t add folic acid, vitamin B-6 and sometimes trimethylglycine … and maybe some magnesium).
But these new studies show that there is even more nutrient activity.
Would you not know that it would take the Japanese to care about the really good shape of the B-12 in their study! They used methylcobalamin instead of cyanocobalamin (at least I guess mecobalamin is). Of the three types of cyano-, hydroxo- and methyl- the last one is by far the best (and unfortunately the most expensive). I only use the cyano type when the methyl type is not available (which often is).
Dr. Spreen tells me that he also used B-12 to deal with fatigue. Although patients were confirmed anemic (iron deficiency) and did not turn out to be B-12 deficiency, I found that B-12 helped iron deficiency to correct much faster (and with less iron, which can be a double sword nutrient) than with iron alone. Added folate helped even more.
When it comes to supplement dosage, Dr. Spreen 1.6 mg per day of folate, although he personally thinks that something closer to 5 mg would probably be better for those who want to deal with cardiovascular problems. And to get the most out of the B-12 / folate combo, 100 mg per day of B-6 is also necessary, as is 400-500 mg of magnesium per day (to make B-6 more effective).
He says, TMG is a powerful homocysteine ??lowering agent, but it is expensive and not always necessary for use to lower levels. There are some people who just don’t get a biological response from the standard drugs, folate, B-6 and B-12, so then you would add