Dr.Jeffrey Stuart M.D. and nurse Sally Pacholok R.N. have released the second edition of their book: Could It Be B-12? An Epidemic of Misdiagnosis. In it, they claim that a substantial amount of physical and mental disability in the elderly is being written off as general age-related decline when it is actually the manifestation of a Vitamin B-12 deficiency. They claim that millions of people are needlessly suffering and dying from this common vitamin deficiency, and often their symptoms are misdiagnosed as MS, Alzheimer’s, senile dementia, depression, chronic fatigue and other conditions that are mimicked by Vitamin B-12 deficiency.
"The shame is that the problem is easy to spot, easy to treat, easy to cure, and costs very little money," say Stuart and Pacholok, co-authors of the only book on the subject. "But that's only if your doctor diagnoses you before it's too late. Unfortunately, that rarely happens."
Their message is catching on. Dr. Oz just did an entire show on Vitamin B-12 just last month (January 2012).
Stuart and Pacholok say the entire national health crisis (and the related financial burden from expensive treatments for misdiagnosed disease as well as malpractice lawsuits) could be greatly relieved with a simple change in the standard of medical care that would encourage health care professionals to test for B-12 deficiency in all elderly people, and especially those who show symptoms of the diseases that a deficiency of Vitamin B-12 mimics.
"If insurance companies and our government knew how much money they were needlessly spending they would get on board immediately," Pacholok says. "Standardized testing and treatment of people found to be deficient, as well as those who are asymptomatic but in the gray zone (B-12 levels between 200-450pg/ml, considered normal by many doctors), would save them billions of dollars each year."
Pacholok, a leading authority on Vitamin B-12 deficiency, warns that if you are B-12 deficient, standard multivitamin pills will NOT help. The reason? Most people are deficient because their digestive systems do not effectively absorb the vitamin. When you swallow Vitamin B-12 it must combine with a carrier substance known as Intrinsic Factor in order to be absorbed. Elderly people usually stop producing this stomach secretion. The result is that you absorb little or none of the Vitamin B-12 that you swallow.
"If you're deficient, swallowing a multivitamin is like adding a teaspoon of water to an empty swimming pool," Pacholok says.
The preferred way to take an oral vitamin B-12 supplement, Pacholok says, is by sublingual or micro-lingual absorption, where the vitamin dissolves under the tongue and directly enters the bloodstream. Some patients, however, may still require B-12 injections.
Stuart and Pacholok have done dozens of TV, radio and print interviews including CNN Headline News and Redbook. The first edition of their book, Could It Be B-12? An Epidemic of Misdiagnoses, was released in 2005, and is now available in an updated second edition from Quill Driver Books.