Vitamin B12 and Kidney Disease

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Vitamin B12 supplementation has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of complications in those suffering from kidney disease.  It is commonly known that people with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) have kidneys that don’t function anymore.  However, with dialysis treatment at prescribed intervals, these patients can live normal lives.

Patients undergoing dialysis, unfortunately, still have high levels of a toxic amino acid known as homocysteine.  These high levels of homocysteine put the patients at an increased risk for heart attacks and strokes.  The reason is that this amino acid encourages the buildup of plaque in the arteries.

The two nutrients responsible for the metabolism of homocysteine are folic acid and vitamin B12.  When a person with high levels of homocysteine is given folic acid and no additional vitamin B12, the body is unable to destroy the homocysteine.

Doctors try to lower the homocysteine levels of patients with ESRD by giving them folic acid.  As mentioned previously, folic acid alone cannot reduce homocysteine without additional vitamin B12.  That’s why this doesn’t work.

There are studies that support this theory. In one study in the U.S., doctors took twenty-four patients on hemodialysis and divided them into two groups.  One group received the standard folic acid therapy and a small dose of oral B12.  The other group received folic acid and B12 injections (a higher dosage).  The group receiving the B12 injections had a plasma homocysteine levels that were 32% lower than their counterparts.

Researchers in Japan conducted a similar study on twenty-one hemodialysis patients.  This study also compared homocysteine levels of patients who received folic acid alone to patients who received folic acid and B12 injections.  Within three weeks the patients who received the injected B12 fared much better than the control group.

If you know anyone who has kidney disease and is on dialysis, tell him to supplement his diet with high doses of vitamin B12.