Vitamin Factor in Heart Attacks?
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16 April 2010
By Pratibha Masand
Doctors Say Deficiency Of B12, A Vitamin Found Mostly In Fish & Meat, Noticed In Young Patients
Not even in his nightmares had 23–year–old Ramesh Tayde (name changed) thought that a person his age could have a heart problem. But while making a presentation in his new highpaying job, he developed chest pain. He tried to ignore it, but within minutes he blacked out. When his colleagues took him to a hospital, he was found to have suffered a heart attack.
“Most people kept wondering how I could have got an attack at this age. Even I was shocked as I do not smoke and I don’t have any of the other problems like hypertension, high cholestrol or diabetes, which are generally the cause of cardiac problems in people my age,” said Ramesh.
However, it turned out that since Ramesh is a pure vegetarian, he had a deficiency of vitamin B12, along with other vitamins, which caused his homocysteine levels to rise very high.
Anup Tare, another 23–yearold, was standing in a line for admission in a university, when he had an attack. It turned out that Anup not only had high stress levels, but also smoked occasionally.
In both cases however, the doctors noticed high levels of homocysteine and low levels of vitamin B12. “A deficiency of any one of vitamin B12, B6, or folic acid leads to high levels of homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood. Hyperhomocysteinemia, in turn, has been associated with heart problems amongst youngsters. Thus, we can say, that a deficiency of vitamin B12 in the body, may be one of the causes of increasing number of youngsters having heart problems,” said Dr Manjeet Juneja, consultant interventional cardiologist at Fortis Hospital in Mulund.
“Out of all the young cases of heart attack that we have seen, almost all of them had high levels of homocysteine, while 90% of youngsters turned out to be vitamin B12 deficient,” added Dr Juneja.
While it means being a vegetarian may put you at greater risk of heart disease, non–vegetarians may have other causes for cardiac trouble. Moreover, not all agree that B12 deficiency is at fault.
Dr Ameya Udyavar, consultant cardiologist and electrophysiologist at P D Hinduja Hospital agrees with only a part of the theory. “No doubt that high levels of homocysteine are known to cause clotting in the blood, which leads to thrombosis of the heart.
However, a deficiency in B12 together with folic acid (vitamin B9) is known to cause high levels of homocysteine. Deficiency in B12 alone causing hyperhomocystienemia has not been proved. Deficiency of another vitamin in the B catagory, thiamine (known as vitamin B1) causes ‘beri beri’ a condition in which the heart muscle beats slowly. Thus, it can be said that a deficiency of vitamins in the B category can cause heart problems,” he said.
Dr N O Bansal, head of cardiology in JJ Hospital, however, differs completely. “People need not panic. Though high homocysteine levels were often believed to be a cause of heart probems, this theory itself has been questioned time and again. To say that B12 deficiency may be one of the causes leading to hyperhomocysteinemia will be stretching it too far,” he said.
Importance Of Being Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is called the ‘Nerve Vitamin’ as it’s essential in keeping the nerve cells healthy. It’s also needed to make DNA, the genetic material in all cells
It is found in a variety of foods such as fish, shellfish, meat and dairy products
How it works
Vitamin B12 is bound to the protein in food. Hydrochloric acid in the stomach releases B12 from protein during digestion. Once released, B12 combines with a substance called Intrinsic Factor before it is absorbed into the bloodstream
How deficiency occurs
Some people are unable to absorb vitamin B12 from the intestinal tract, leading to anaemia. Many vegetarians, who do not take in proper amounts of B12, are also prone to a deficient state
The perfect b12 daily dose
US doctors state that a day’s supply of vitamin B12 can be obtained by eating the following things
What vitamin b12 deficiency can do Studies have shown that this could lead to abnormal neurological and psychiatric symptoms. These symptoms may include: Ataxia (shaky movements and unsteady gait), Muscle weakness, Spasticity, Incontinence, Hypotension (low blood pressure), Dementia, Vision problems and Mood disturbances