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Thread: Nitrous oxide from cars may be causing a growing, world-wide vitamin B12 deficiency

  1. #1
    Ex-admin Korn's Avatar
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    Apr 2004

    Default Nitrous oxide may be causing a growing, world-wide vitamin B12 deficie


    'Auto emissions from catalytic converters produce nitrous oxide which may be causing a growing, societal/world-wide vitamin B12 deficiency

    David W. Gregg, Ph.D.

    There have been a number of publications reporting studies showing that breathing nitrous oxide may destroy a person's vitamin B12. This has been reported not only in journal articles, but has finally been incorporated in the latest books on nutritional supplements as well as books on biochemistry. What first came to my mind was the use of this gas by dentists. Nitrous oxide, often called "laughing gas", is commonly used by dentists to help mitigate pain. This could present a risk to patients, but probably more often it presents a risk to people working in the office who would be exposed every day. However, a far greater potential concern came to mind when I recently read a news article that stated that the catalytic converters in automobiles are creating enough nitrous oxide emissions to contribute significantly to the greenhouse effect. It is also known to be a very stable molecule that has a lifetime in the atmosphere of approximately 150 years. With cars continuing to produce it, one would expect the concentration in the atmosphere, world wide, to be increasing every year, and it appears to be doing so. Is this already producing B12 deficiencies world wide, which will increase with time? This would not be surprising because we require (and absorb) only a few micrograms vitamin B12 per day and our livers store only a few micrograms in reserve. It would take only a very low concentration of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere to destroy this if the destruction process is efficient, and the individual's dietary absorption process is inefficient. What are the potential health consequences and what can we as individuals do to protect against this potential problem?

    I have had some personal experience which I will discuss below that makes me believe that I have discovered a significant fraction of the population is B12 deficient. It is a far greater fraction that I would have expected, since it even exists in young people who should have healthy B12 absorption systems. Is this the effect of the atmospheric nitrous oxide emissions already showing up? I believe it is a definite possibility which deserves some serious attention.'

    Health Consequences of a Vitamin B12 Deficiency

    It is widely recognized that vitamin B12 in combination with folic acid is essential for your body to synthesize hemoglobin. A deficiency can result in a particular form of anemia called pernicious anemia. However, as we continually expand our knowledge of biochemistry, it is being recognizing that these vitamins fill far more broad ranging requirements. It is doubtful that all their functions been identified, but it is reasonable to conclude that a deficiency could result in or contribute to a broad range of degenerative processes. Cancer is one of these processes as discussed in the "Cancer" health note.

    The absorption of vitamin B12 requires a highly specialized process which tends to become less effective with age. For this reason it is common for doctors to give elderly people B12 shots which result in them feeling much better and more energetic. It is also common for the elderly to develop numerous degenerative diseases. (They don't all get shots.) Does a B12 (and folic acid) deficiency contribute to the development of many degenerative diseases that we commonly associate with aging?. It would not surprise me at all if it does. It doesn't appear to be so common to give vitamin B12 shots to young people, so we may have not discovered a deficiency that may exist. Is there a similar deficiency in younger people resulting in a different set of medical problems? I have reason to believe there might be, and my only explanation for such a surprising and unnatural development is the growing nitrous oxide concentration in the atmosphere.

    The individual solutions and my evidence that the problem might be broad ranging over all age groups

    If a serious vitamin B12 deficiency is being caused by automobile emissions, we certainly want to change that process. However, this will require changes in cars that are beyond our individual control. So, what can we do individually?'

  2. #2
    chakra's Avatar
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    Nov 2004
    Columbus, Ohio

    Default Tip of the iceberg.

    It has been more than apparent to me since I worked up a paper on emissions for a college health project that the health consequences of smog are dreaded and not a fair exchange for the conveniences of travelling by auto. Yet very few will give the things up. There are far more Vegans in the industrial world than carless people. Even environmental activists use them.

    Changes in the composition of the atmosphere, reduction of the ozone shield, and the more immediate consequences of smog are hardly well understood. Yet smog effects on health were enough to motivate some ill-fated attempt at reductions for a while. Giving out shots is hardly a very tenable solution since there are other degrading chemicals effecting many other aspects of the rather delicate organic life systems of our home here yet to be uncovered.

    What changes in human thought and motivation will result in breathing less oxygen, in ratio to CO2, NO, N2O, etc., etc. You will have the double edged sword of less oxygen content in each breath, coupled with increasing toxification by pollutants. Add to it an increase in UV and other damaging radiation, some of which will pass through walls, thanks to ozone depletion, harsher climate patterns, and ever more crowed cities, heat islands, winds ripping through clear cuts...sham elections, eventually a nuclear meltdown, terrorist attack, or even an exchange of warheads somewhere...politicians diverting attention through fear mongering...

    Well, that makes B12 problems just a crack in a shell about to rupture. How many Vegans would be willing to give up the car? Most of us can't even get to a vegan friendly store without one, except at risk to life and limb attempting to bicycle through traffic. And breath more pollutants in the process.

    Unless changes are forthcoming very quickly to stop overpopulating, redesign cities, develop alternative energy, and shift away from unnatural and unhealthy food production and diet - the consequences implied by the very interesting B12 example can be taken as just the tip of an iceberg. Or the crackling static preceeding a cataclysm.
    I am a tangerine ;)

  3. #3
    Ex-admin Korn's Avatar
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    Apr 2004

    Default Re: Tip of the iceberg.

    More info, this time from

    Aside from its psychopharmacological actions, nitrous oxide has one other
    (known) significant metabolic action: it interacts with vitamin B12. This
    was first reported in an in vitro study in 1968, but didn't really
    receive notice from anaesthesiologists until ten years later (because
    medline didn't exist yet ). In 1978, however, Amess et al showed that
    24 h of nitrous oxide administration caused interference with DNA
    synthesis in humans. Since then, the interaction between nitrous oxide
    and B12 has been better characterized.

    Basically, B12 is a bound coenzyme of methionine synthase and has a
    tetrapyrrole rings with a monovalent cobalt at the center. The cobalt
    functions as a methyl carrier in a transmethylation reaction. Nitrous
    oxide converts the cobalt from the monovalent form to the bivalent
    form. As a result, methionine synthase activity is inhibited. Recovery
    is believed to require absorption of new unoxidized B12 (and synthesis
    of new apoenzyme).

    Humans seem to be far more resistant to complications from this than rodents.
    I don't have the energy to go through the various published studies at
    this point, so I will quote from Nunn's "Clinical Aspects of the Interaction
    Between Nitrous Oxide and Vitamin B12" (1987), _Br. J. Anaesth._ 59: 3-13.

    It seems likely that in man, in contrast to the rat, exposure
    of less than 30 minutes will not cause any measurable change in
    methionine synthase activity. In combination with a wealth of
    clinical experience, this suggests that there is no special
    hazard for short exposures to nitrous oxide. There is a variable
    response to exposures lasting between 30 minutes and 2 h. However,
    it now seems likely that exposures of more than 2 h are likely
    to cause intereference with hepatic methionine synthase
    activity. The paucity of human data makes it more difficult to
    say how long an exposure is required to cause significant
    intereference with DNA synthesis. It is likely that there will
    be considerable individual variation and results obtained in
    healthy patients cannot be extrapolated to the patient
    who is seriously ill. Nevertheless, it seems likely that,
    once methionine synthase activity is inhibited, it will remain
    so for days.
    I will not eat anything that walks, swims, flies, runs, skips, hops or crawls.

  4. #4
    Ex-admin Korn's Avatar
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    Apr 2004

    Default Re: Nitrous oxide from cars may be causing a growing, world-wide vitamin B12 def

    Here's another article about nitrous oxide and cobalamin (B12), folate and homocysteine, showing that during nitrous oxide anesthesia, even short exposure to nitrous oxide has a significant effect.

    Of course the nitrous oxide amount of nitrous oxide we get from cars is much lower that the amounts mentioned above, but lots of people are exposed to emissions from catalytic converters in cars regularly, so the sum of the effect of the pollution from cars may be much larger (over time) than the effect from nitrous oxide occasionally used as anesthesia.
    Last edited by Korn; Aug 25th, 2009 at 08:28 PM. Reason: Original link to original article now dead; updated

  5. #5
    Ex-admin Korn's Avatar
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    Apr 2004

    Default Re: Nitrous oxide from cars may be causing a growing, world-wide vitamin B12 def

    Another article discussing the effect of nitrous oxide on B12:
    Warning from new SLU research: Usual test for vitamin deficiency can mislead doctors
    I will not eat anything that walks, swims, flies, runs, skips, hops or crawls.

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