Autoimmune diseases are a group of disorders that occur when the immune system attacks healthy body tissues by mistake. The immune system, which is intended to protect the body from foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses, can occasionally fail to distinguish between healthy and harmful cells. This can cause the immune system to attack the body's own cells and tissues, resulting in a variety of symptoms affecting various parts of the body.
The symptoms of autoimmune diseases vary depending on the condition and the part of the body affected. Fatigue, joint pain, skin rashes, and inflammation are all common symptoms. These symptoms can be chronic and can last for years, causing significant physical and emotional distress in people with autoimmune diseases.
Rheumatoid arthritis, for example, is an autoimmune disease that primarily affects the joints, causing inflammation and stiffness. Over time, this can cause joint damage and deformity, making it difficult for people to perform everyday activities like walking, climbing stairs, and even holding objects.
Multiple sclerosis is another autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system, causing a variety of symptoms such as muscle weakness, vision problems, and coordination and balance problems. These symptoms can have a significant impact on a person's quality of life and ability to carry out daily tasks.
Lupus, celiac disease, and type 1 diabetes are all autoimmune diseases that can affect different parts of the body, including the skin, digestive system, and endocrine system. The symptoms can range from mild to severe, and in some cases, they can be fatal.
Two scientists, George Whipple and William Murphy, discovered vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, in the 1940s. They discovered that vitamin B12 was required for the treatment of pernicious anemia, a previously fatal condition. Vitamin B12 has since been recognized as an essential nutrient for human health.
How it works
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is essential for a variety of physiological processes in the body. It is involved in carbohydrate, protein, and fat metabolism and is required for the production of red blood cells and DNA synthesis. Recent research has also suggested that vitamin B12 may play a protective role in the prevention of autoimmune diseases.
Vitamin B12 may help modulate the immune system by regulating the production of cytokines, for example. Cytokines are small proteins that play an important role in cell signaling and in immune cell communication. Certain pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-), can contribute to the development of autoimmune diseases. Vitamin B12 has been shown to reduce the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, lowering inflammation and potentially the risk of autoimmune diseases.
Vitamin B12 may also protect against autoimmune diseases by maintaining the integrity of the blood-brain barrier. The blood-brain barrier is a protective membrane that surrounds the brain and protects it from harmful substances. Vitamin B12 deficiency has been shown in studies to disrupt the blood-brain barrier, allowing harmful substances to enter and potentially contributing to the development of autoimmune diseases. Vitamin B12 supplementation has been shown to maintain the integrity of the blood-brain barrier, potentially lowering the risk of central nervous system autoimmune diseases.
Vitamin B12 may also influence the gut microbiome, which has been linked to immune function and the development of autoimmune diseases. The community of microorganisms that live in the gastrointestinal tract is referred to as the gut microbiome. Vitamin B12 is required for the growth and metabolism of certain gut bacteria, and deficiency has been linked to changes in the gut microbiome and the development of autoimmune diseases. Supplementing with vitamin B12 may help maintain a healthy gut microbiome and lower the risk of autoimmune diseases.
Studies and Results
Several studies have suggested that vitamin B12 may play a protective role in lowering the risk of autoimmune diseases. A 2008 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) followed over 300,000 women over several years and discovered that higher vitamin B12 intake was associated with a lower risk of developing multiple sclerosis. In another study published in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatology in 2013, high-dose vitamin B12 supplementation was found to reduce the severity of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms in a group of patients.
60 patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) were randomly assigned to receive either 1,000 mcg of vitamin B12 or placebo for 12 weeks in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial published in the journal Clinical Rheumatology in 2019. The researchers discovered that vitamin B12 supplementation significantly reduced disease activity in SLE patients as measured by the SLE Disease Activity Index (SLEDAI).
The recommended daily intake of vitamin B12 is 2.4 micrograms for adults. However, individuals who are at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, such as vegans and vegetarians, may need to take supplements to meet their daily requirement.
Vitamin B12 is essential for human health, and recent research has shown that it can also reduce the risk of autoimmune diseases. A balanced diet or supplements can provide adequate vitamin B12 intake, especially for those at risk of deficiency. We can take an active step toward lowering the risk of autoimmune diseases by including vitamin B12 in our diet.