Chlorella Shown to Have B12 Activity in Humans—Caution Warranted

October 28th, 2015 by Jack Norris RD

I have updated the article B12 in Plant Foods with a new study on B12 activity in Chlorella:

In a 2015 (USA) study, Merchant et al. fed 17 B12-deficient vegans and vegetarians a Chlorella pyrenoidosa supplement for 60 days (1). Average serum MMA levels decreased from 441 nmol/L at baseline to 301 nmol/L at 30 days and 297 nmol/L at 60 days. Average serum homocysteine levels decreased from 10.0 µm/L at baseline to 9.5 µmol/L at 30 days and 9.0 µmol/L at 60 days. No adverse effects were noted from the chlorella regimen.

Some caveats:

• Average serum MMA levels appeared to stabilize on this regimen at above recommended levels. B12 deficiency is generally defined as serum MMA levels above 270 nmol/L, the same standard used in this study by Merchant et al.

• The study was funded by Sun Chlorella Corporation of Japan and the lead author of the study is a paid consultant.

• A daily regimen of 45 Sun Chlorella A tablets (totaling 9 g) were used in this study. That amount of tablets would be quite costly. While it might require fewer than 45 tablets to achieve the same results, we can’t tell from this study.

In summary, it appears that at least some batches of chlorella have vitamin B12 activity, but it’s too soon to know how much chlorella vegans would require for optimal B12 status.

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References

1. Merchant RE, Phillips TW, Udani J. Nutritional Supplementation with Chlorella pyrenoidosa Lowers Serum Methylmalonic Acid in Vegans and Vegetarians with a Suspected Vitamin B(12) Deficiency. J Med Food. 2015 Oct 20. [Epub ahead of print] | link

Methyl vs. Cyano B12

October 25th, 2015 by Jack Norris RD

Special note: A study was just released suggesting that the algae chlorella has vitamin B12 activity. I will be reporting on that as soon as I get the paper.

A paper was published in the July edition of Molecular Nutrition and Food Research reviewing the four different forms of vitamin B12 (1). The four forms are cyanocobalamin (CNCbl), hydroxocobalamin (HOCbl), methylcobalamin (MeCbl), and adenosylcobalamin (AdoCbl).

A quick summary is that MeCbl and AdoCbl are the two forms of vitamin B12 that are co-enzymes–the body actually uses these forms and needs both of them. But CNCbl is the form most commonly found in supplements and fortified foods while HOCbl is the form usually contained in B12 shots.

There has been a debate for about the last 10 years as to whether supplementing with the co-enzyme forms is better than supplementing with CNCbl or HOCbl. The paper by Obeid et al. suggests that people do not benefit more from the co-enzyme forms. Even for people with genetic defects of vitamin B12 metabolism, injections with HOCbl are preferable to supplementing with the co-enzyme forms.

Excerpt:

Currently, we do not have sufficient evidence to suggest that the benefits of using MeCbl or AdoCbl override that of using CNCbl or HOCbl in terms of bioavailability, biochemical effects, or clinical efficacy. There is uncertainty regarding the claimed superior role of Cbl coenzyme forms for prevention and treatment of Cbl deficiency. However, HOCbl may be an advantageous precursor of the cofactors, particularly in the inherited disorders of metabolic Cbl processing. CNCbl is a more stable and inexpensive form that appears to be best suited for oral supplementation and parenteral [intravenous] treatment as well.

.

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References

1. Obeid R, Fedosov SN, Nexo E. Cobalamin coenzyme forms are not likely to be superior to cyano- and hydroxyl-cobalamin in prevention or treatment of cobalamin deficiency. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2015 Jul;59(7):1364-72. | link

Latest in Clinical Nutrition Volume 27 Released

October 25th, 2015 by Jack Norris RD

Dr. Michael Greger has released his Latest in Clinical Nutrition Volume 27.

As always, there’s lot of interesting stuff!

Butter is Not Back

October 25th, 2015 by Jack Norris RD

From the Harvard School of Public Health: Butter is not back: Limiting saturated fat still best for heart health

Excerpt:

People who replace saturated fat (mainly found in meats and dairy foods) in their diets with refined carbohydrates do not lower their risk of heart disease, according to a new study led by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. On the other hand, those who replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats (found in vegetable oils and nuts) or whole grains lower their heart disease risk.

Vitamin D: Don’t Overdo a Good Thing

September 24th, 2015 by Jack Norris RD

Came across a sensible article on vitamin D supplementation today. Thanks, Jeff!

Vitamin D: Don’t Overdo a Good Thing by Tod Cooperman, M.D.

Excerpt:

“It seems that initial reports led some experts to ignore the recommendation of the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine, which says that only people with vitamin D levels under 20 ng/mL are deficient. Instead, these experts argued that people need to maintain levels which are at least 50 percent higher–30 ng/mL….Further feeding this frenzy have been clinical laboratories — which profit from more vitamin D tests. When you get a vitamin D test back, the “normal” range shown next to your result often extends up to 100 ng/mL (which is actually far beyond the normal range), leading people with levels in the 20s, for example, to believe they needed more vitamin D.”

Taiwanese Vegans: Doing Well!

September 17th, 2015 by Jack Norris RD

A study from Taiwan shows differences between vegans, lacto-ovo vegetarians, and omnivores (1).

I’m only going to report the findings for vegans, but the study abstract lists the findings for lacto-ovo vegetarians if you’re interested.

At baseline, vegans had lower rates of abnormally high waist circumference, body mass index, blood pressure, blood glucose, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol. Vegans had a higher rate of abnormally low HDL cholesterol, but a lower rate of abnormally high total to HDL cholesterol ratio (which is more important than absolute HDL levels). Theses finding are all very similar to what’s been found in Western vegans.

Subjects were followed for an average of 2 years. The one statistically significant finding during follow-up for vegans was that each additional year of a vegan diet lowered the risk of obesity by 7%.

Other items of note are that the lower rates of high blood pressure could be explained by lower body mass index and that vegans ate the smallest amount of fried foods of any diet group.

In conclusion, Taiwanese vegans have better metabolic markers than omnivores.

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References

1. Chiu YF, Hsu CC, Chiu TH, Lee CY, Liu TT, Tsao CK, Chuang SC, Hsiung CA. Cross-sectional and longitudinal comparisons of metabolic profiles between vegetarian and non-vegetarian subjects: a matched cohort study. Br J Nutr. 2015 Sep 10:1-8. [Epub ahead of print] | link

New Report on Vegetarians and Colorectal Cancer

September 3rd, 2015 by Jack Norris RD

I have updated the VeganHealth.org article Cancer, Vegetarianism, and Diet with results from the Netherlands Cohort Study-Meat Investigation Cohort (1).

The study found that vegetarians had a non-statistically significant, reduced risk for colorectal cancer. In comparison to non-vegetarians, the rate for vegetarians was .78 (.51, 1.20) when adjusted for age and gender, and .89 (.58, 1.39) when further adjusted for energy, smoking, alcohol, body mass index, physical activity, and education.

It follows a long line of research that has mostly found non-significant differences between vegetarians and non-vegetarians for colorectal cancer (see Table 3).

Some other interesting findings from the report:

– Fiber and soy product intake contributed most to the observed inverse risk.

– People who ate meat only once a week had a borderline statistically lower risk (.72, .52-1.00) than those eating meat 6-7 days per week in the model adjusting only for age and gender. Adjusting for the remaining variables (mentioned above) weakened the association.

– Substituting 5% of energy from meat protein with 5% of energy from dairy protein was associated with a 24% reduced risk of colorectal cancer, after adjustment for confounding variables (P=0.055). Dairy products may protect against colorectal cancer risk due to their high calcium content.

This is only a very small piece of the puzzle on diet, meat, dairy, vegetarianism and colorectal cancer, but it underlines the recommendations that vegans make sure they’re getting enough calcium.

In summary, there is some good news here, but it suggests that vegans get enough calcium.

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1. Gilsing AM, Schouten LJ, Goldbohm RA, Dagnelie PC, van den Brandt PA, Weijenberg MP. Vegetarianism, low meat consumption and the risk of colorectal cancer in a population based cohort study. Sci Rep. 2015 Aug 28;5:13484. | link | PDF Available

Omega-3 Supplements Fail to Slow Cognitive Decline

September 3rd, 2015 by Jack Norris RD

A reader asked me to comment on the study, Effect of Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Lutein/Zeaxanthin, or Other Nutrient Supplementation on Cognitive Function (1). It is a recent study that got some attention for showing that omega-3 supplements failed to prevent cognitive decline in older people.

I contacted the authors to get the blood levels of EPA and DHA at baseline to compare them to typical levels in non-supplementing vegans. Unfortunately, they didn’t measure them in a way that allowed for me to compare to studies on vegans. If they had been similar to typical levels in vegans we would have some evidence that the lower levels in vegans are not a problem, but since I couldn’t tell, I don’t consider it to provide any evidence that vegans cannot benefit from omega-3 supplements.

The good news is that this report could help reduce the use of fish oil supplements by non-vegetarians.

For more on this issue, see Omega-3 Fatty Acid Recommendations for Vegetarians.

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If you like my posts, please like my posts! Or share them!

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References

1. Chew EY, Clemons TE, Agrón E, Launer LJ, Grodstein F, Bernstein PS; Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) Research Group. Effect of Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Lutein/Zeaxanthin, or Other Nutrient Supplementation on Cognitive Function: The AREDS2 Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2015 Aug 25;314(8):791-801. | link

Latest From Dr. Greger

September 3rd, 2015 by Jack Norris RD

Dr. Michael Greger of NutritionFacts.org recently released his DVD Latest in Clinical Nutrition Volume 26: Volume 26 – Dr. Greger Takes on Smoothies.

Dr. G has also released his 2015 Live Year-in-Review Presentation streaming for free. In it he presents a very interesting history of the medical profession’s promotion of cigarette smoking and compares it to the promotion of meat-eating.

Check ’em out!

Absorption of Various Forms of B12

August 13th, 2015 by Jack Norris RD

Breaking news from 1971 for vitamin B12 junkies!

A reader alerted me to a 1971 study comparing absorption rates of cyanocobalamin, hydroxocobalamin, methylcobalamin, and adenosylcobalamin (1).

They found that at doses of 1 µg, 5 µg, and 25 µg, all forms were absorbed at about the same rate for practical purposes.

However, the researches suggested, based on other research, that at higher doses, cyanocobalamin is better absorbed. They theorized that this could be because absorption of methylcobalamin by way of intrinsic factor is efficient while cyanocobalamin is better absorbed through passive diffusion.

Based on this study, I’ve cleaned up the VeganHealth.org page Methylcobalamin & Adenosylcobalamin where you can also see a table of the absorption rates from this 1971 study.

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References

1. Adams JF, Ross SK, Mervyn L, Boddy K, King P. Absorption of cyanocobalamin, coenzyme B 12 , methylcobalamin, and hydroxocobalamin at different dose levels. Scand J Gastroenterol. 1971;6(3):249-52. | link