B12 History & Illustrations

Dorothy Hodgkin stamp - she won Nobel Price in Chemistry for showing the 3  dimensional structure of vitamin B12.
Dorothy Hodgkin advanced X-ray crystallography and won the Nobel Price in Chemistry for showing the 3  dimensional structure of vitamin B12.

A quick history of vitamin B12

1850s — English doctor, Thomas Addison, described a lethal “pernicious” form of anemia, related to pathological gastric mucosa and associated with the stomach having little or no acid.

1926 — Georges Richard Minot and William Parry Murphy reported that 45 patients with pernicious anemia had been cured by eating large quantities of raw liver.

1929 — William Castle discovered that “intrinsic factor” in the gastric mucosa was needed to absorb liver’s active ingredient, and that intrinsic factor was lacking in pernicious anemia patients.

1934 — Minot, Murphy and Whipple received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their research isolating extrinsic factor and identifying it as a vitamin.

1948 — Pure vitamin B12 was produced.

1956 — British chemist, Dorothy Hodgkin, described the structure of the B12 molecule.

1964 — Dorothy Hodgkin received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

Pernicious Anemia was fatal

With knowledge of the B12 molecule, pernicious anemia, once fatal, could be treated with injections of vitamin B12, as cyanocobalamin, and patients recovered.

Because blood cells in B12 deficient people were often larger than normal blood cells, B12 deficiency was linked with the blood disorder, anemia; the fact that B12 deficiency was known to be accompanied by nerve and neuropsychiatric problems was overlooked. The governing belief was that without anemia, there was no B12 deficiency.

This inaccurate view is changing as new markers are found. Two markers relating to intracellular functional deficiency are methylmalonic acid and homocysteine.

Pernicious anemia with its lack of intrinsic factor is now thought to be relatively rare. Today it is clear that anemia is only one of many different symptoms of B12 deficiency. List of symptoms ~ Read more.

47% of Americans have Hypochlorhydria?

Hypochlorhydria, less familiar than pernicious anemia, is the condition of not enough gastric acid to separate vitamin B12 from food. An estimated 47% of people in the U.S. have hypochlorhydria, partially due to increased use of antacids marketed as a good source of calcium.

Research shows that smoking, high alcohol consumption, and many prescription drugs reduce B12, as do some common genetic polymorphisms (variations occurring within a species) that affect enzyme activity.

For myself, I think that it may be the case that high stress is the underlying problem that reduces B12. It may be that people smoke and drink to relieve stress because they can feel the damage that the stress is doing. I’m not saying that drinking and smoking are a cure for the problems arising from stress, I’m saying that it’s very possible that when stress is lowered and/or B12 levels are increased there is less desire to smoke and drink, from a purely physical level.

Functional B12 Deficiency

Through scientific testing over a long period it was learned that “functional deficiency,” that is, a deficient distribution of B12 at the cellular level, could come about even though serum levels were normal.

NOW methyl B12 loxengesNOW Methyl-B12 1000 mcg

Sadly, the American medical community sees fit to keep the “normal” range extremely low, which fosters confusion and mis-diagnosis.

News reports during 2008 that linked doctor prescriptions with kick backs from drug companies may make the medical community’s favoritism for drugs over nutrients less sad than criminal.


Illustration by Karen Kline of Hypochlorhydria
Illustration by Karen Kline of Hypochlorhydria

Too little stomach acid and B12 remains trapped in protein. Symptoms of low gastric acid


Illustration by Karen Kline Showing Vitamin B12 being released
Illustration by Karen Kline Showing Vitamin B12 being released

When there is adequate stomach acid vitamin B12 is released from protein.


Illustration by Karen Kline of Vitamin B12 and Intrinsic Factor

You need intrinsic factor before vitamin B12 can be used by your body.

Amazing microscopic view of B12.

Photo of thumbnail with Ridges and faded moon
Ridges on Thumbnail

While expensive tests are developed to test for B12 deficiency, as for instance using a determination of holotranscobalamin, the transport protein with selectively bound active cobalamin . . . Learning to recognize signs of low B12 in your body is your BEST DEFENSE against the ravages of B12 Malabsorption and low vitamin B12 levels:

Symptoms of low vitamin B12

Your fingernails reveal your B12 health

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B12 History & Illustrations
Article Name
B12 History & Illustrations
Severe B12 deficiency or Pernicious Anemia ceased being fatal once the B12 molecule was discovered. Insufficient stomach acid is a leading cause of deficiency
Publisher Name
Health Boundaries
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