400ml Consumed Daily Can Push Up Essential Vitamin Level
Article published in Times of India, Pune Edition
Pune: The vitamin B12 deficiency epidemic can possibly be stemmed with milk consumption, a study conducted by a city hospital has found. The year-long interventional study has indicated how drinking 400 ml milk every day can push up this essential vitamin’s level in the body.
The study also found satisfactory vitamin B12 concentration in the milk supplied to the city by ten suppliers.
Since animal meat is the richest source of vitamin B12, doctors who conducted the study recommended an alternative dietary strategy for vegetarians. And for vegans, they suggested supplements.
The study was conducted by the department of clinical biochemistry and orthopaedics of Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital & Research Centre (DMH) with the department of endocrinology, KEM Hospital and department of biochemistry, University of Pune.
Fifteen men and 36 women, all healthy asympotmatic vegetarian volunteers, participated in the study, of whom 57%werefoundtobedeficient in Vitamin B12 at the start.
The findings, published in the October issue of the journal ‘Nutrition’, recommend consumption of 400 ml of milk every day, including buttermilk and yoghurt. Tea and coffee with milk, ice-cream, cheese and butter were also found to alleviatethedeficiency to some extent.
Milk can prove to be a fairly good source of bioabsorbable form of vitamin B12, for vegetarians and even non-vegetarians, if it is complemented with the right intrinsic factors. Eating a pro-biotic diet, rich in food items like curd and buttermilk, with less of junk-food contributes to the build-up of good gut flora, which in turn lets the body absorb and generate vitamin B12 from milk. White milk is generally a rich source of all B-complex vitamins and calcium, it can be appropriately absorbed if the intrinsic factors are in place.
– Geeta Dharmatti, president, Pune Chapter of Indian Dietetic Association
Author and head of the department of clinical biochemistry at DMH,Sadanand Naik, said they conducted the study following a surge in the number of deficiency cases in the hospital. “So many patients (suffering from the same deficiency)could only have meant two things – either people’s diets are insufficient in the nutrient, or the body is not able to absorbit. Athird possibility of the deficiency existing even if there was no malabsorption was also considered,” he said.
The experts studied the quality of milk in Pune. “Samples supplied by different sources, picked from various parts of the city at erratic times of the day, were tested. The concentration of vitamin B12 in the milk, including the variety sold by milkmen, ranged from 2.50-3.85µg/L (micrograms per litre). This is a satisfactory level. The body can absorb the recommended dietary allowance of Vitamin B12 of 1µg/ day if we drink 400 ml of milk every day,” Naik said.
The study found that when people suffering from the deficiency (who participated in the study) consumed milk for 14 consecutive days, it improved their vitamin B12 levels. “Even though the increase was modest (29.6 pmol/L), maintaining the intake over a period would be beneficial in vitamin B12 deficient subjects. As absorption of Vitamin B12 is a complex body procedure, achieved only if conjugated with some other protein, dairy foods are better and a source of highly bio available vitamin B12, more than even meat and medication, the absorption of which is more complex,” he said. For vegans and lactose intolerant vegetarians, medication is the only alternative, Naik added.
Vitamin B12, also called cobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin which plays a key role in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system and the formation of blood. Its deficiency (< 148 pmol/L) is associated with several morbidities.