More on the importance of an accurate diagnosis
In 2013, doctors diagnosed an unnamed woman in her mid-fifties with a number of cognitive and functional impairments including dementia. This after her sister brought her to a hospital because of seizures and loss of consciousness.
Fast forward to 2018 Lisbon and the Nova Medical School. Psychiatric doctors there finally realized this woman was being treated for the wrong thing.
As described in their report, the woman had many of the symptoms associated with dementia, including paranoia. For example, she believed her family was trying to poison her. Her memory deteriorated over time. She become disoriented and got lost when out of the house. According to the report, “The patient was conscious but disoriented in time and space. Her speech was slurred, and, according to her sister, sometimes incomprehensible.”
Additionally, she experienced auditory and visual hallucinations, both frequent symptom of many types of dementia. She claimed often and loudly that dead relatives were telling her not to take her medicines.
Did her dead relatives know best?
Perhaps she should have listened to them. Until doctors figured out that her symptoms were caused by pernicious anaemia she was being treated for psychosis, seizures, and dementia.
The correct treatment for her vitamin B12 deficiency made a huge difference. According to the report’s authors, “The patient had a remarkable neuropsychiatric recovery after vitamin replacement and psychopharmacological management.”
But how did a vitamin deficiency go unrecognized for so long? The symptoms of this condition are well known and easily recognized. And the condition is certainly not rare. Some estimates of the prevalence of vitamin B12 deficiency in the U.S. are as high as 25%! Still, the condition is often undiagnosed and as a result, untreated.
The symptoms are quite diverse, from weak muscles and lack of energy, to fast heart rate and loss of appetite. On the other hand, several of the common symptoms do mimic Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. These include:
- Cognitive issues (thinking, reasoning)
- Memory loss
- Personality changes
Like dementia, vitamin B12 deficiency can cause balance problems and increase a person’s risk of falling. This serious dietary deficiency can cause vascular and neurological conditions; but, unlike dementia, it is treatable, usually with vitamin supplements. Untreated, it causes serious problems, including nerve and spinal cord damage. Unfortunately for the woman in this story, her backbone was irreversibly damaged because of the lateness of the diagnosis.
This case is another compelling example of the importance of an early and accurate diagnosis if dementia is suspected. Indeed, accurate diagnosis is critical regardless of the condition or disease.
So Why The Cow?
It just so happens that beef and dairy products are excellent sources of vitamin B12! In fact, a 6 ounce steak contains 150% to 200% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for this essential nutrient. A six ounce bowl of yogurt – 50%. Other dairy products like cheese provide up to 16% of the RDI per ounce.
Fish and other seafood also help to overcome vitamin B12 deficiency, especially sardines, tuna, rainbow trout, and salmon. Even better than these culinary delights from the sea are clams. Twenty small clams contain as much as 3,300% of the RDI!
The two eggs you have for breakfast provide more than 20% of the RDI for B12. Moreover, those eggs contain up to 10% of the recommended allowance of vitamin B2. In fact, many of the food sources for B12 also relatively high in B2, another essential nutrient. Eggs are not the bad guys certain sectors of the food industry made them out to be.
However, organ meats might be the best dietary source of vitaminB12. Liver and kidney aren’t everyone’s favorite foods. On the other hand, lamb and beef liver especially are among the most nutrient dense foods we can eat.
All food is not created equal
So eat. Good food is the best way to overcome dietary deficiencies, including vitamin B12 deficiency. Buy the best and cleanest food that you can. Cows in nature eat grass. They do not naturally eat corn and soybeans. As an example, grass fed beef contains 3 times more omega-3 oil than grain fed beef! We always recommend organic, pasture raised, wild caught, etc. It is expensive, but so is the doctor.
You may have noticed that all of the foods listed are animal based. There are few good plant sources for B12. This may be the biggest problem with a vegan diet. There are vegan supplements available, and they are important if you follow a vegan diet.
When food is not enough
The woman in our story had pernicious anemia. Pernicious anemia is the result of a condition that makes it difficult for the body to absorb and use this vitamin. This condition likely requires supplemental B12, taken either orally or injected.
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Vitamin B12 has benefits beyond preventing symptoms that may be mistaken for dementia. This essential nutrient is thought to reduce symptoms of depression, improve heart health, increase energy, and even protect brain cells and other nerves. Whether you are concerned for your own health, or cooking for a love one with dementia, include foods that reduce the risk of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Please share your favorite recipes that include the food items listed above. Just Leave a Reply below. Include your name if you wish so we can credit you. Join the conversation today!
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WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING
- First of all, thank you for such a tremendous, caring and comprehensive website, I always pass the word along to those I think might benefit from it. Thank you so much, I really look forward to giving him something he can actually do. Lisa
Is B12 shot better than B12 pill?
Wendy J Anderson
I am not a doctor or dietitian, so I hesitate to answer this question other than to say it seems to me an injection would be better. Can anyone answer Wendy’s question more authoritatively?
I had tingling sensation of pins/needles and numbness in toes, laboratory tests confirmed B12 Deficiency. Doctor prescribed B12 shots, the symptoms are now fading away. Anyone who rely on vegan diet should keep a check on B12 Nutrient.