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Ardent Light - The Link Between B12 Deficiency & Coffee
How We May Help You > Consumer Guide > The Link Between B12 Deficiency & Coffee
Vitamin B12 (also known as cobalamin because it is the only vitamin that contains the trace element cobalt) is a water soluble vitamin (dissolves in water) and has the largest and most complex molecular structure of all the vitamins. It is important for the development of red blood cells (for good energy levels), iron absorption, circulation, adrenal hormone production, posture and balance, memory, mental clarity, concentration, good mood and feelings of well-being, normal homocysteine levels (for healthy cardiac function), sperm production and motility, manufacture of DNA, proper cell division, repair, and longevity, proper digestion, food absorption, conversion of carbohydrate and fat into energy, growth, and maintenance of the nervous system. A slight deficiency of vitamin B-12 can lead to anemia, fatigue, indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, gas, nausea, insomnia, obsessive compulsive disorder, mania, depression, loss of appetite, PMS (premenstrual symptoms), impotence, and premature grey hair. A mid-term deficiency can result in a weak immune system, reduced sensation in the limbs, pins-and-needles feeling in fingers and toes, memory and balance disturbances, dizziness, disorientation, nervousness, trembling, eye problems, liver problems, menstruation cessation or reduced frequency, infertility, miscarriages, and an inability to regulate body temperature. A long term deficiency can cause cancer, damage to the brain and central nervous system (e.g., Alzheimer's, dementia, hallucinations, multiple sclerosis, neural tube birth defects), and pernicious anemia, a very serious type of anemia where red blood cells are improperly formed and white blood cell count is low.

How Coffee Can Be a Health Hazard

Not everything in nature was meant to be consumed. The coffee bean is one of them. The following are the many reasons why coffee (even decaffeinated coffee) can be hazardous to your health.

Can Cause B12 Deficiency: Most people drink coffee for the quick energy boost it gives them in the morning along with improved concentration and alertness due to its high amount of caffeine. Not only can B12 give you a much longer lasting energy boost, concentration, and alertness, but it can also give you all the health benefits listed in the first paragraph of this article. It is not addictive or habit-forming with none of the withdrawal symptoms typical of caffeine addiction (e.g., headaches, craving, heart palpitations, trembling, shakiness, nervousness, anxiety, etc.). In fact, coffee can even cause B12 vitamin deficiency. B12 deficiency causes the low energy, poor concentration and alertness that you are trying to avoid with coffee, resulting in a vicious downward cycle.

Other Nutrient Deficiencies, Osteoporosis, & Heart Disease: Though coffee is rich in antioxidants, almost all are destroyed in the traditional coffee roasting process. Coffee is highly acidic in the body (decaffeinated coffee is even more acidic) which causes your body to extract calcium and other alkaline minerals from your bones and joints to rebalance your blood PH. The normal blood pH is tightly regulated between 7.35 and 7.45 with higher being too alkaline and lower being too acidic. As a result, coffee lowers calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, essential fatty acids (e.g., omega-3s, omega-6s), and vitamin A, B (including B12, B9/folate, B6, and B2), C, D, E, and K in the body. Deficiencies in these nutrients prevent your body from converting homocysteine (a metabolite of the amino acid methionine) into essential hormones, antioxidants, and neurotransmitters such as glutathione (a powerful detoxifier in the body), serotonin (the neurotransmitter that makes us happy), melatonin (sleep and mood improving hormone), dopamine (euphoria hormone), adrenaline (the fight and flight hormone), and SAMe (a metabolic precursor to essential brain hormones). In fact, your homocysteine level is a more accurate predictor than cholesterol of our risk of heart attack, stroke, or rheumatoid arthritis. Most people may be aware that calcium and magnesium deficiency can lead to osteoporosis, but they may not be aware that one of the first signs of a calcium and magnesium deficiency is irregular heartbeat, ultimately leading to stroke and heart diseases such as atherosclerosis or arteriosclerosis (where fatty material collects along the wall of arteries thereby hardening their walls and leading to blockages in blood flow).

Caffeine Causes Constipation: Caffeine's interference with the absorption of magnesium can also lead to constipation. Caffeine is also a cholinesterase (acetylcholinesterase) inhibitor, which means that we end up with more acetylcholine (ACh) in our body than we need which can lead to a cholinergic crisis. In this state, neuromuscular tissues become over-stimulated from ACh until the muscles stop responding to the bombardment of ACh, leading to flaccid paralysis of the muscles of the colon (in this example) which leads to constipation.

Dehydration & Malabsorption: Coffee (even decaffeinated) is a diuretic (causes you to urinate frequently) which can lead to dehydration. Coffee (even decaffeinated) over-stimulates the digestive system causing the bowels to expel waste before it has the chance to process and utilize the vital water and nutrients which can lead to a constant state of dehydration and malnourishment among regular coffee drinkers.

Many Other Health Problems: Coffee inhibits stomach acid production (decaffeinated coffee even more so). Low stomach acid encourages the proliferation of the bad bacteria Helicobacter Pylori (H. pylori) which can cause stomach ulcers (gastritis), stomach cancer (gastric polyps), pancreatic cancer, Mucosa-Associated Lymphoid Tissue (MALT) lymphoma (includes mucus lymphoid lining of tonsils, appendix, stomach, small intestine, lungs, nose, vagina), vitamin B12 deficiency, pernicious anemia, heart disease, gum disease, arthritis, asthma, Parkinson's disease, chronic headaches/migraines, rosacea, morning sickness, acid reflux (heartburn), bloating, nausea, and frequent burping. Low stomach acid combined with the coffee's laxative effects can cause the H. pylori bacteria and undigested food to move into the intestines too early causing food to putrefy and ferment producing toxic gas and compounds that can weaken the intestinal lining causing the wastes, toxins, and undigested matter to leak into the bloodstream (a.k.a., "Leaky Gut Syndrome") causing autointoxication and all kinds of autoimmune diseases, including Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn's disease, Ulcerative Colitis, diarrhea, high blood pressure, difficulty sleeping, and anxiety (Group, 2010). Low stomach acid means incomplete digestion and therefore assimilation of protein which can cause an unusual craving for protein.

Acid Reflux: Coffee inhibits the lower esophageal sphincter from closing allowing the stomach acid to be pushed out when stomach contracts to push food into the small intestine, or acid pushed up by the gas produced from the rotting food in the stomach due to low stomach acid.

Beware of Decaffeinated Coffee: Avoid drinking decaffeinated coffee or tea because known carcinogens are used in the process of decaffeination, even when they claim to be "naturally decaffeinated." Instead, avoid coffee altogether and drink naturally caffeinated tea such as macha green tea or yerba mate tea as they are not only rich in antioxidants but also much lower in caffeine than coffee and they contain the amino acid L-theanine that actually reduces the bad effects of caffeine.

Addiction & Desensitization to Caffeine: Caffeine prevents the chemical adenosine from telling the brain to relax. The result is a surge of unnatural energy, but over time, the brain becomes accustomed to the threshold and requires even greater amounts of caffeine to stop the brain from relaxing and produce more alertness. This is what makes caffeine a highly addictive and therefore popular compound to add to drinks that don't naturally already have caffeine (e.g., sodas, energy sports drinks, juices) in order to guarantee repeat and increased profits. In addition, roasted coffee has opiate-like properties due to the fat-soluble compound cafestrol (Founder, 2012).

Caffeine Causes Weight Gain & Diabetes: Caffeine stimulates the production of cortisol (also known as the stress hormone). One of the roles of cortisol is to help facilitate the fight or flight response designed to save us from physical threat. When the body is stressed, cortisol is released to increase blood pressure and speed carbohydrate and fat metabolism which then increases the amount of sugar in the blood, which then promotes the release of insulin to make our cells more permeable to the glucose sugar to feed our muscles and cells so they can respond to the physical threat more quickly. This cortisol-induced demand for blood sugar causes us to feel hungry, encouraging us to eat more despite our best intentions. The situation is exacerbated when we drink more coffee when we are stressed. If our response to the increased cortisol were physical, like running away from a perceived threat or choosing instead to fight, we might burn off the extra fuel. However, in today's world since most stress is mental or emotional and rarely due to actual physical threat, weight gain is a likely result. In addition, faced with consistently elevated insulin levels, our cells will tend to become resistant to its effect making them less able to utilize our now elevated levels of blood sugar. This insulin resistance condition often turns into type 2 diabetes (Smucker, 2012).

Interferes with the Production of Serotonin & Melatonin: Caffeine blocks the production of both serotonin and melatonin which can result in tiredness, irritability, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps control appetite and carbohydrate intake, promote a good mood and good sleep, and manage impulsive and obsessive behaviors.

Loaded with Chemicals: Over 70% of the world's coffee supply is contaminated with toxic pesticides and chemicals that are known to cause infertility, fibroids, cancer, estrogen dominance, hypothyroid, joint problems, osteoporosis, heavy metal poisoning, and many other health problems. It is estimated that just one cup of coffee contains over 2000 chemicals, many of which are gastrointestinal irritants and carcinogens. Conventionally grown coffee is one of the most heavily sprayed crops in the world. In addition, the high heat used to roast coffee beans causes the natural oils to turn rancid, further contributing to its toxicity.

Causes Infertility: Coffee also decreases fertility. A large study from Connecticut found as little as 1 cup of coffee per day increases the risk of not conceiving by 55 percent. And if you have 2-3 cups per day that risk rises to 100 percent and continues to increase with an additional cup up to 176 percent. Women who drank coffee before and during pregnancy had twice the risk of miscarriage (Keene, 2009).

The Best Coffee Substitutes

Many people drink coffee for either the caffeine effect (to wake up in the morning), for the taste (drink decaf), or both (to wake up and enjoy its taste). If you drink coffee mainly to wake you up and give you energy, you can substitute coffee with vitamin B12 or tea. Tea actually has more antioxidants than coffee and significantly less caffeine. Caffeine in coffee ranges from 125 to 185 mg per cup. While plain black tea, for example, contains about 55 mg per cup. Matcha Green Tea  or or yerba mate tea not only can give you an energy boost but can help you avoid the coffee caffeine "crash" as well. Though they do not taste like coffee, they taste great with or without milk or sweetener, are loaded with potent antioxidants, and contain caffeine but with the L-theanine amino acid to significantly reduce its side effects.

If you simply like the taste of coffee, there are coffee-like substitutes like grain coffee. Grain coffee is not really coffee but a ground mixture of grains, nuts, and dried fruit that taste similar to coffee and is naturally caffeine-free. Unfortunately, grain coffee contains grains and nuts that have anti-nutrients such as gluten and phytic acid.

The Real Sources of B12

Real B-12 is manufactured by bacteria in our intestinal flora, by bacteria that can be found in the organic soil (not conventional pesticide, herbicide, fungicide-laden soil), and by bacteria found in oceans and lakes. The bacteria eats decaying organic matter and excrete nutrients into the soil or water, including B12. The B12 along with other nutrients are absorbed by the plants first into its roots and then eventually to the rest of the plant. In the water, algae and aquatic plants use the B12 to grow and sustain themselves and then become food for marine animals. Unwashed organic vegetables contain higher amounts of B12 because of the soil on their surface in addition to the B12 already inside the vegetable. Scientists usually find little B12 in vegetables because they test vegetables grown in soil sterilized with chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, nematicides (chemical to prevent roots from rotting), and chemical fertilizers. B12 can also be found in the meat, liver, milk, and eggs of animals that eat unwashed organic plants and marine or aquatic plants.

Though B12 can be found in organically grown plants, animal sources of B12 are the highest concentrations (with the exception of spirulina) since animals eat lots of the plants that contain B12 and the B12 accumulates in their meat and liver. The top 10 animal foods that contain the most B12 (% RDA per 100g serving according to the USDA National Nutrient Database) are:

  1. Clams (1648%), mussels (600%), oysters (400%).
  2. Lamb, beef, moose, turkey, duck, goose, chicken liver. Lamb liver has the highest (1428%).
  3. Whitefish eggs (940%), caviar (333%).
  4. Octopus cooked (600%), octopus raw (333%).
  5. Mackerel fish (317%), herring (312%), salmon (302%), tuna (181%), cod (167%), sardines (149%), trout (130%), bluefish (104%).
  6. Crab (192%), lobster (67%).
  7. Chuck beef steak (103%), sirloin (62%), rib-eye (60%), ribs (58%).
  8. Lamb shoulder (62%), foreshank and leg (53%), chops (51%).
  9. Swiss cheese (56%), gjetost (40%), mozzarella (39%), parmesan (38%), tilsit (35%), feta (28%).
  10. Goose egg (122%), duck egg (63%), chicken egg (33%).

How Vegans Can Survive Without B12 From Animal Products

Generations of vegans can survive without animal sources of B12 in their diet if they have enough intestinal flora in their gut making the B12, eat organic produce, take the time to thoroughly chew their food, live a mostly peaceful and stress-free life (stress consumes a lot of B12), produce adequate stomach acid, have adequate amounts of calcium, and avoid alcohol, coffee, tobacco, antibiotics, antacids, and anti ulcer drugs (all which deplete B12). 60% of the total B12 in the body is stored in the liver and 30% is stored in the muscles. The liver stores and secretes B12 through bile into the beginning of the small intestine where it travels down to the end of  the small intestine to be reabsorbed. About 65-75% of the B12 is recycled and reabsorbed in this way so our need for B12 is reduced and our B12 stores can last up to 20-30 years.

How Vegans & Non-Vegans Can Become B12 Deficient

Unfortunately, many environmental toxins (e.g., nitrous oxide or laughing gas from dental offices and nitrous oxide emissions from catalytic converters in automobiles that contribute significantly to the greenhouse effect), chemicals in our food, and pharmaceutical drugs create toxic build-up in our intestines which then kills off the good bacteria that produce B12 for us and prevents the recycling and re-absorption of B12 that normally takes place in our intestines. Antibiotics also kill off these good bacteria.

In addition, stomach acid production declines as we get older because our beliefs and views about how things should be becomes rigid thereby reducing our ability to "digest" or "stomach" life leading to a decline in hydrochloric acid. Hydrochloric acid not only separates the B12 from the protein it is normally bound to, but the acid also has another protein (R-protein) that attaches itself to the freed B12 and then carries it to the small intestine where enzymes secreted from the pancreas release the B12 from the R-protein and then an intrinsic factor carries the B12 to the end of the small intestine where the intestinal cells latch onto the intrinsic factor carrying the B12 and absorbs it into the bloodstream to be distributed throughout the body where needed. Without sufficient stomach acid, the B12 cannot be removed from the protein it is bound to and therefore cannot be transported and absorbed leading to a B12 deficiency. The more you chew your food, the more stomach acid is produced. This is why eating fast and swallowing large pieces of food can easily lead to indigestion, heartburn, acid reflux, gas, and constipation.

B12 also requires calcium for absorption so a calcium deficiency (which can also be caused by taking a type 2 diabetes drug like Metformin) can also result in a B12 deficiency. Emotional, psychological, and prolonged physical stress can deplete B12 reserves quickly. Alcohol, coffee, tobacco, antacids, and anti ulcer drugs are also known to interfere with B12 absorption rendering any B12 consumed from diet useless.

The Shocking Truth About B12 in Most Multivitamins

Most multivitamin supplements contain 100-200 micrograms of B12. But, if you actually took 500 micrograms of B12, you'd get an absorption of about 1.8 micrograms, an absorption rate of only one third of one percent! To make it worst, according to the late Victor Herbert, a renowned B12 researcher, many multivitamin products on the market today contain dangerous B12 analogs which actually increase your body's need for B12. Analogs are created when crystalline B12 interacts with other nutrients in multivitamin products, such as vitamin C, iron and copper, blocking the absorption of real B12.

In addition, the B12 in almost all B12 injections and supplements is the cheap (100 times cheaper than the real B12 methylcobalamin or adenosylcobalamin) synthetic version of B12 cyanocobalamin that's actually bound to a cyanide molecule which is a poison that must removed from your body by your liver. Removing the cyanide molecule from the vitamin and then flushing it out of your body requires stealing methyl molecules from your body that were needed to fight things like homocysteine (high levels cause heart disease). This also uses up the master detoxifier and antioxidant glutathione which are often in short supply in the liver. See Cyanocobalamin Side Effects for a list of symptoms of cyanocobalamin poisoning.

Resolving the Underlying Cause

While you are eating more organic foods, supplementing with an effective absorbable form of B12, and thoroughly chewing your food, also address the underlying cause of the B12 deficiency by undergoing a detox program to clean out your intestines, replenishing your intestinal flora with good bacteria, and examine and question all your belief systems that are holding you back from accepting all of life in all its various manifestations. While you are working on the root cause of low stomach acid, you can take digestive enzymes that include hydrochloric acid to help you absorb the B12 from your diet and supplements. Be sure to also avoid as many environmental and food toxins as possible including alcohol, coffee, smoking, and find natural foods and herbs to replace any pharmaceutical drugs you are taking. If you cannot remove stressors in your life, start a yoga program that includes pranayama and meditation to change the way you react to stressors.

What to Look for When Shopping for a B12 Supplement

When shopping for B12 supplement, avoid synthetic B12 (cyanocobalamin) and look for natural B12 (methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin). Also avoid it in pills, tablets, capsules, gelcaps, or even liquid since these forms of B12 typically are not absorbed well by the body. Instead look for a sublingual type or a special patch that you can put right behind your ear. The best sublingual spray is Mercola Vitamin B12 Energy Booster nano-spray. The best patch form of B12 is Health Habits B-12 Energy Patch which also provides the methylcobalamin from of B12. We are still researching the adenosylcobalamin form of B12 since our body seems to store 70% of B12 (cobalamin) as adenosylcobalamin in the liver and adenosylcobalamin cannot be made from methylcobalamin.

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