What is vitamin B12? There’s a ton of nonsense on the internet, and we felt like we should make a dedicated section just for this. After all, it’s not just pernicious anemia patients who suffer from B12 deficiency. There are those people with gastric surgeries, tapeworm infections, vegan diets, age-related decline in stomach acid, and more.
So, without further ado, let’s dive right in.
On Vitamin B12, Dogs And Vomit
More than a century ago, a crippling form of anemia was affecting people, causing very low red blood cell counts, neurological damage, and eventually death. Doctors named the disease pernicious anemia, and were having a hard time finding a cure.
The breakthrough occurred when Dr. George Hoyt Whipple of the University of Rochester ran an experiment, showing that the administration of liver rapidly restored the blood counts of dogs he had made anemic by making them bleed.
Thanks to this, Drs. William P. Murphy and George R. Minot proposed that liver may be useful in the treatment of pernicious anemia, even though it was different than the anemia induced in Whipple’s dogs. So, they started feeding liver to patients.
And they were right.
In 1934, Whipple, Minot and Murphy were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine for discovering the anti pernicious anemia factor, named extrinsic factor.
Soon after, Dr. William Bosworth Castle of Harvard University discovered that patients who had stomach surgery were still anemic despite being fed liver. He suspected that there must be something within the stomach that helps absorb the extrinsic factor.
Guess what he did about it?
Ate raw meat, vomited it an hour later, and fed his vomit to patients.
And it worked!
Though it may sound disgusting, back then it was groundbreaking. He gave the name intrinsic factor to whatever it was in his stomach juice (and vomit) that enabled the absorption of the extrinsic factor, which was later isolated and named…
These days, vitamin B12 provides an effective treatment for pernicious anemia, which is ironically no longer pernicious (‘deadly’) thanks to the B12.
Pernicious anemia back then referred to all anemia cases resulting from B12 deficiency. Today, it refers specifically to B12 deficiency anemia resulting from antibodies that inhibit B12 absorption. In effect, the type of cases Dr. Castle treated with his vomit. Luckily, these days you can have B12 shots.
What Is Vitamin B12?
Of all vitamins, B12 is the largest and most complex in structure. It is crucial to DNA synthesis, production of red blood cells, and the metabolism of every cell in our body. It is especially important to the maintenance of a healthy nervous system.
In contrast to what most people think, animals do not create vitamin B12. We get it mainly thanks to bacteria that feeds on cobalt in the grass. Herbivores eat that grass, and the bacteria ends up multiplying in their stomach, producing B12. A similar process happens in the ocean’s food chain, making marine animals rich in B12 as well.
In this guide, you will learn everything you need to know about vitamin B12. We will update it often over the months and years, so you may want to have it bookmarked. Don’t worry, everything here is kept up to date with the latest research.
Here it is: