Article #18: A Normal Source of Vitamin B12 by V.V. Vetrano, B.S., D.C.
It has long been difficult to produce a vitamin B12 deficiency in animals (Stokstad 1968). Yet, this is exactly what scientists tried to do to baboons in a study done by Uphill, Jacob and Lall, at the Wellcome Trust Research Laboratories, P.O. Box 43640, Nairobi, Kenya.
In the manuscript written by Uphill, Jacob and Lall there are several contradictions. At one time it is stated that, "The production of vitamin B12 deficiency in animals is known to be difficult (Stokstad 1968) and in this laboratory the feeding of a vitamin B12-deficient diet to baboons over a two-year period resulted in the development of a subclinical deficiency of the vitamin (Siddons 1974)." Then they tell us how they produced the "subclinical" deficiency. "It was shown however, that the vitamin B12 deficiency was more severe in baboons fed a diet containing ampicillin, suggesting that the intestinal flora may play a part in the vitamin B12 nutrition of the baboon." They never really found a deficiency in all the animals. Some animals actually had a high serum vitamin B12 level. Some writers taking the foregoing statement out of context will convince people that a vitamin B12 deficiency can indeed be produced in baboons, when it can't. The so-called deficiency was subclinical and never caused disease in the animals. It was merely a low serum vitamin B12 level. Even if they had produced a real deficiency it would not have meant anything because the experimental diet was so inadequate in every known nutrient, containing only synthetic vitamins and minerals, that for all purposes the animals were just subsisting, and probably living largely on stored nutrients.
They continue: "In addition, a group of young baboons fed a vitamin B12-deficient diet were found to have high serum and liver vitamin B12 levels after 18 months, in comparison with older animals fed the same diet. The intestinal flora of young animals has been shown for many species to be different from that of adult animals (Smith & Crab 1961). This study was undertaken to determine whether there were any detectable differences in vitamin B12 production by the intestinal flora of the baboons which could explain these findings."
They also state that, "Samples of gastric and small intestinal contents, obtained at laparotomy from two young vitamin B12-deprived baboons, contained varying quantities of vitamin B12. Many of the organisms isolated from these aspirates produced vitamin B12 in vitro. The highest levels of vitamin B12 were produced by anaerobic organisms."
The experimental animals were fed a diet completely free of all nutrients except synthetic ones. It is a wonder that any of the baboons remained healthy. The basal synthetic diet consisted of vitamin free casein, sucrose, corn oil and a mineral salts mixture, together with a vitamin mixture. Some were given a diet deficient in vitamin B12 and some were supplemented with vitamin B12. If you are interested in the exact diets of all the animals, I suggest that you secure a reprint of the article. The feeding of the animals and separation into control groups were extremely varied and would take up too much valuable space to reprint it all here. Some had the basal diet supplemented with vitamin B12; others had a vitamin B12 deficient basal diet; and some had the basal diet but low in fat and containing sodium propionate; and some had ampicillin added to the vitamin B12 deficient diet. Both sodium propionate (a preservative used in baking goods) and ampicillin probably had detrimental effects on the microbial flora of the baboons' intestinal tracts.
"Many intestinal microorganisms are known to produce vitamin B12, often in an amount in excess of the host's requirements (Mickelsen 1956). However, the site of vitamin B12 production in the intestine is important when considering the potential availability of the vitamin to the host, since vitamin B12 absorption is reported to occur in the upper part of the alimentary tract (Matthews 1967). Ruminants, although feeding on a diet of plant material totally devoid of vitamin B12, have been shown to have high levels of the vitamin in their rumen contents (Hungate 1966). Due to the anterior position of the rumen, its content must pass through the remainder of the alimentary tract, so allowing maximal opportunity for vitamin absorption. In other mammalian species and in birds the densest intestinal microbial populations normally occur in the caecum and colon. Vitamin til2 produced by microbial action in these areas is considered to be excreted, unutilized, in the faeces. Coprophagous species are an exception in that they obtain a considerable part of their vitamin requirements by ingestion of their faeces."
In the article quoted above, the authors skirt all around the truth, never quite willing to admit that baboons also have bacteria in the upper intestines that form vitamin B12. In the aforementioned experiment it was clearly demonstrated that baboons have the microbial flora in their stomachs and small intestines that produce vitamin B12. Even though they demonstrated that the baboons fed on a diet deficient in vitamin B12 nevertheless have vitamin B12 in their serum, they seem reluctant to admit that this can happen. They succeed in producing a near deficiency of B12 by feeding some of the animals 50 mg/kg of ampicillin a day (an antibiotic). Naturally this will destroy some of the bacteria and prevent vitamin B12 from being formed. Since all the B vitamins are interrelated, and since some are necessary for the absorption of others it is understandable how some older animals may be deficient, being on such a synthetic diet.
It was clearly shown that microorganisms capable of producing vitamin B12 were isolated from the gastrointestinal tracts of the animals who were deprived of vitamin B12. "A greater variety of organisms was isolated from baboon A. However, baboon B had eaten very little of the food offered to it 6 h prior to laparotomy."
An interesting point observed was that yeasts were not the organisms that formed the most vitamin B12 in the baboons. "The levels of vitamin B12 produced by organisms isolated from baboon faeces are compared. A total of 126 strains of yeasts and aerobic organisms were isolated of which only 9.5% produced up to 1.0 ng/ml, vitamin B12. In contrast, of 123 strains of anaerobic organisms isolated, 48% of cultures contained > 1.0 ng/ml vitamin B12, and 23.6% of cultures, mainly Gram negative rods, contained >10 ng/ml. There were no noticeable differences in the types of faecal organisms isolated from controls or baboons fed any of the vitamin B12 deficient diets, with the exception of the group fed ampicillin. The faeces of these animals contained very few aerobic or anaerobic Gram positive organisms, the flora consisting mainly of aerobic and anaerobic Gram negative rods and yeasts. The patterns of vitamin B12 production by the faecal organisms were similar both within the vitamin B12-deficient groups, and between the vitamin-deficient and control groups."
Vitamin-Deprived Baboons Had More Bacteria Working For Them
The group of baboons fed a vitamin B12 deficient diet showed that more bacteria capable of forming vitamin B12 were in their gastric juice samples. "Table 4 compares the vitamin B12 produced in cultures of organisms isolated from gastric juice samples aspirated 6 h after feeding, from vitamin B12-deprived and control baboons. The number of isolates obtained from the gastric juice samples from the control group was low in comparison with the vitamin deprived group. There were also fewer isolates producing the higher levels of vitamin B12 obtained from the control baboon gastric samples. No organisms producing > 10 ng/ml vitamin B12 were isolated from the gastric juice samples." This definitely proves that bacteria capable of producing at least 10 ng/ml of vitamin B12 are in the babcon's stomach and, therefore, there is. definitely a chance for absorption of vitamin B12 as the stomach contents move to the small intestine.
Humans Have Anaerobic Organisms Producing Vitamins In The Colon
It is very possible that the bacterial flora of humans also produces vitamins for us in the stomach and small intestine where they can be absorbed, and not only in the colon. For several years now, I have held to this view, because it is well known that the ileum, that part of the small intestine nearest the colon, has a purpose. It begins to take on the anatomy of the colon. Less digestion and absorption of other nutrients occurs here. Recently it has been shown by experiments that this area is the greatest area of absorption of vitamin B12. Bacteria that produce the most vitamin B12 are those which grow in the absence of air, anaerobes, and these are present in the stomach and small intestine.
It is well known that anaerobic bacteria exists in the human digestive tract just as they exist in the baboon digestive tract. Vegans not taking supplements, who were part of an experiment, had no deficiency of vitamin B12. If it was not in their food as some scientists claim, then it had to be formed by the host's microbial flora. "The highest levels of vitamin B12 were produced by the anaerobic isolates, in particular by Cl perfringens and some of the anaerobic Gram negative rods."
There Is No Way Getting Around It—Vitamin B12 Is Produced In The Stomach And Upper Intestine Of Primates
Baboons have bacteria in their stomachs and intestines which produce vitamin B12. They are primates. So is humankind a primate.
This implies that people also have the bacterial flora to produce vitamin B12 and that this can be absorbed in the ileum.
There are anaerobic bacteria in human gingiva. Were they to make more studies on these bacteria, I'm sure they would find that they also produce vitamin B12. It is essential that we understand that the vitamin levels that the bacteria produced differed when the food they were fed was different. If these bacteria are fed properly in our own intestines I am sure that the levels of B12 would increase. If we humans live on the diet to which we are constitutionally adapted, not only will we be properly nourished, so will our bacterial flora, and they in turn will produce for us the necessary elements for a proper nutrition in levels far more than we actually need.
Vitamin B12 Is Reused Like Iron
Vitamin B12 circulates. It is excreted with bile and reabsorbed like bile from the intestines. It can be used over and over again. It is stored in the liver. Our body is intelligent. It knows what it is doing.
The ileum has its purpose, even if we mortals can't figure it out. Probably other even unknown nutrients are also formed for us in the intestines by bacteria. If we would quit feeding ourselves poisons, and eat a diet for which we are anatomically, physiologically and biochemically designed we would see a health unparalleled in modern times. Our health could equal that or surpass that of the animals in the wild if we would cultivate it half as much as we cultivate enervating habits.
"It has been shown that vitamin B12 was present in the stomach and upper intestine of two of the young vitamin B12 deprived baboons. In addition some of the microorganisms isolated from the gastrointestinal contents of these baboons were capable of producing in vitro large quantities of vitamin B12. However, gastric juice samples from all the vitamin deprived and control baboons contained organisms capable of producing vitamin B12 in vitro. No differences were detected due to different diets or age of animal, with the exception of the baboons receiving ampicillin. Therefore, the unusually high serum and liver vitamin B12 levels found in the young animals, but not in older baboons, remains unexplainable."
I guess the researchers must be very careful about not assuming anything, this is why they are very careful in not stating that vitamin B12 is actually produced in vivo in the animals deprived of vitamin B12. But, organisms don't cease functioning when they find themselves in the intestinal tracts of animals. To cease functioning would be to die and they were found alive very capable of producing vitamin B12.
The Study Provides Presumptive Evidence That The Vitamin B12 Found In The Baboon Stomach And Upper Intestine Could Have Been Produced By Microbial Action
After beating about the bushes for about a half hour, they finally come up with the above presumption.
"Vitamin B12 found in the gastrointestinal contents of vitamin B12 deprived baboons could be derived from ingested food, desquamated epithelial cells, digestive secretions or from the bodies and/or the secretions of the gastrointestinal microflora. Siddons (1974) reported that the vitamin-free casein used in these studies contained 0.004 ug/gr L. leichmanni growth-promoting ability, which, if it was due to vitamin B12 could result in each baboon receiving 0.01 ug vitamin B12 a day. The three baboons fed the soya protein diet did not receive even this minimal supplementation however, but the mean 18 H and 6 h fasting gastric samples also contained high levels of the vitamin. The vitamin B12 content of desquamated epithelial cells or digestive secretions is unlikely to account for all of the vitamin B12 found in the stomach contents of baboons deprived of the vitamin. These animals were showing evidence of vitamin B12 deprivation in their low serum and liver levels (Siddons 1974) but the mean vitamin B12 levels in their stomach contents 18 H after feeding were not significantly lower than those of control baboons. It would be impossible to state conclusively that the intestinal flora were largely responsible for the vitamin B12 found in the baboons stomach and intestine, since production of the vitamin by an organism in vitro does not necessarily mean that comparable levels would be produced in vivo. However, this study does provide presumptive evidence that the vitamin B12 found in the baboon stomach and upper intestine could have been produced by microbial action."
Vegans also had lower serum levels of vitamin B12 but their high folate count made up for this and their blood cells were normal. Normal values for serum vitamin B12 for vegetarians and frugivores have not yet been established. If no disease develops and the animals and people remain healthy then evidently their supply of vitamin B12 is adequate.
They finally get around to making a few conclusions. "Assuming that the vitamin B12 produced by these organims in vitro was also being produced in vivo in the baboon stomach and upper intestine, it is possible that the vitamin was being absorbed and utilized to meet part of the animal's nutritional requirements. Vitamin B12 produced by the Gram positive flora was unavailable to the baboons fed ampicillin and their vitamin B12 deficiency was increased."
They Can't Really Produce A Deficiency Of B12
That they can't really produce a vitamin B12 deficiency in baboons is clearly intimated in the following sentence. "This study suggests that the chances of producing a vitamin B12 deficiency in the baboon might be improved by a change in its feeding habits." By operating on animals and cutting out normal body parts they can achieve their goal. "Smith (1956), showed that in fowls with ablated crops, the bacterial content of the alimentary tract was lower than in ordinary fowls." Surgeons do the same in people. By cutting out over half of some of their patient's stomachs, it's very easy to produce a vitamin B-12 deficiency. There's very little glandular tissue left to secrete digestive juices. To produce a deficiency of vitamin B-12 in baboons, the following is proposed: "Closure of the baboon facial pouches might also lead to a reduced intestinal bacterial population. In addition, the baboons used in this study were fed their daily ration in two meals with an interval of 5 hours between. The results show that vitamin B-12-producing organisms would therefore be present in the upper intestine for at least 12 out of every 24th. The feeding of only one large meal/day and a change of diet to a type less likely to cause an increase in the putrefactive and potentially vitamin B-12 producing flora could speed the development of vitamin B-12 deficiency in the baboon. Alternatively the gram positive vitamin B-12 producing flora can be eliminated by the daily feeding of small quantities of ampicillin."
There is just no way to completely rid the digestive tract of animals and people of all its bacterial flora except by drugging the animal or person so much that you kill it, him or her. There were a total of 126 strains of yeasts and aerobic organisms that produced even more vitamin B-12. These were not only found in the colon. These were found in the stomach and small intestine of all the animals, those deprived of vitamin B-12 as well as the controls. Organisms producing vitamin B-12 found in the gastrointestinal aspirates of two young vitamin B-12 deprived baboons were yeasts, aerobic gram positive cocci, anaerobic gram negative cocci, micro-aerophilic gram positive rods, clostridium perfringens, other anaerobic gram positive rods (unidentified), aerobic gram negative rods, and anaerobic gram negative rods.
I hold the view that if these organisms produce in vitro vitamin B-12, they will do so even more readily in vivo because that is where they live and grow. It is their natural habitat and it is one of their metabolic functions to produce vitamin B-12.
Humans being primates, also have these same bacteria. They do the same things for us as for the baboons. Are we going to let ourselves be hoodwinked into eating practices that are not ideal just because of unproven propaganda? I venture to say that if a percentage of those with pernicious anemia were studied, that there would be more cases found among omnivorous people than vegetarians and on the whole the vegetarians would be the healthiest specimens.
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