It is not loosely attached, it is locked down tight.
The key to wrenching the package off the piece of meat is hydrochloric acid. The acid is able to pop the lock and allow the vitamin B12 package to be slipped off the meat, so it can be transferred to Intrinsic Factor, with the help of a protein that goes by the name, R.
Anything that interferes with the acidity in the stomach – blocks this transfer process.
NOTE : Just getting older seems to bring on lower acid levels, so elderly folks are a lot more likely to end up being short of vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 shortages have been implicated in the thinking troubles associated with aging.
Where has all the acid gone ?
Inflammation in the GUT, brought on by specific foods, resident bugs or unrelenting stress, often causes acid troubles, which manifest as agonizing INDIGESTION i.e. a feeling that your belly is ON FIRE.
People suffering from TOO MUCH ACID, feel compelled to put out the fire, one way or another.
A multitude of options exist, from
- avoiding the offending foods, such as hot chilli stew
- glugging down something cool, like a glass of milk
- to sucking on a Rennies® or swigging down some Gavascon®, products available as part of over-the-counter antacids formulations
- to swallowing prescription meds, such as a proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) or an anti-histamine
The medications bring relief, BECAUSE they interfere with acid production.
But in addition to upsetting the gut microflora, blocking acid production on a routine basis, can contribute to vitamin B12 shortages because, the acid is facilitating the final hand over of the vitamin B12 package.
The final hand over
The acid pries the package off the animal protein, R protein then helps to get the vitamin B12 molecule attached to Intrinsic Factor – who is responsible for getting the vitamin B12 across the gastrointestinal border. Intrinsic factor achieves this objective by hooking up with it’s special transporter located in the small intestine.
If intrinsic factor doesn’t arrive on the scene, the R protein has no choice but to drop the package, which then gets swept out of the gut. The valuable package then slips out the body, when you go to the loo, to do a number 2.
Intrinsic Factor a gentle giant
Intrinsic factor is a shy character. Only a few molecules venture out, each time you eat.
If you’ve eaten a plateful of liver, loaded with cobalamin or swallowed a mega-dose of a crystalline vitamin B12 supplement, a very small amount of the vitamin B12 will end up being transported into the liver.
Experts think at any given “meal” – the maximum amount that will be absorbed from food is around 1 – 2 ug. This is very little, but it isn’t a problem if you’re eating animal foods on a regular basis and the acid system of the stomach is working efficiently. Your body should have a stash of the stuff and you only need a little bit everyday.
Except…. when Intrinsic Factor goes AWOL. Continued tomorrow….Vitamin B12 in Health and Disease. Nutrients (2010) 2, 299-316. Fiona O’Leary and Samir Samman.
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