health

Vitamin B12 T-Shirt Giveaway

Who’s ready for this giveaway to finally happen?!! Yeah, me TOO!! I got sick this past weekend and I was finally able to finish the B12 drawing. It had already taken me longer than I originally anticipated so I’ve decided to extend the giveaway until the 22nd. Oh, you’ll be happy to know I got an A in Chemistry and its the end of General Chemistry for me!

Vitamin B12 Molecule - Cobalamin

Take a moment to admire this beast! I’m very happy with how it turned out, and although it’s only an artistic rendition of the molecule and is quite clearly exaggerated, it does help to have something to visualize. I’ve been looking at some other vitamins to research and I’m SOOOO glad many of them are less complicated than this.

Let’s get down to business! I’m teaming up with my peeps over at NY Custom Utica for this giveaway. We’ll be giving away 3 DTG printed t-shirts, to 3 different winners, with the above illustration printed across the chest. If this sounds like something you’d like to win, here’s how to get entered:

  1. Answer the questions to this Cobalamin survey. (Must include email or I can’t notify you of winning!)
  2. Read this article about Cobalamin.
  3. Answer the questions to this followup survey about Cobalamin. (Again, must include email or I can’t notify you!)
  4. For 3 extra entries, use the rafflecopter widget below to *like* me on facebook, follow me on Twitter, and/or leave a comment.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About NY Custom DTG Printing and Personalized T-Shirts:

Although the most popular method of printing t-shirts is screen printing, NY Custom Utica t-shirts are printed using Direct To Garment Printing (DTG) which is the process of using inkjet printers to print an image directly onto t-shirts without the use of screens that are needed for screen printing, which requires a lot of setup e.g., creating screens for each color.

In addition, DTG printing uses eco-friendly, water soluble ink, unlike some screen printing methods that layer Plastisol (a suspension of PVC particles in a plasticizer) on top of the t-shirt. The only requirement for DTG printing is for the image to be high resolution, resulting in photograph quality printing with no setup fee or minimums for custom t-shirts.

Giveaway Terms and Conditions:

  • You must be 18 years or older to enter.
  • The winners have 48 hours to reply or a new winner will be chosen.
  • Physical address required for shipping; no PO boxes, US recipients only residing in one of the 48 contiguous states.
  • NY Custom Utica will ship the prize to the winners within 30 days of contest end.
  • The winners will be chosen randomly and will each receive:

    • One white, unisex, Gildan, G200 6.1 oz. Ultra Cotton® T-Shirts made in 100% preshrunk cotton (in a size of the winner’s choosing) printed with the B12 illustration across the chest.

Vitamin B12 – Cobalamin

What Is the Chemical Term for B12 and What Does it Look Like?

As you likely guessed from the title of the article, B12 is often called Cobalamin. There are actually 4 forms of cobalamin (methylcobalamin, adenosylcobalamin, cyanocobalamin, and hydroxocobalamin)(1), but for simplicity’s sake I’ll just refer to B12 as Cobalamin. We can get into the differences in the four types at a later time. Below is what cobalamin looks like in a simple structural form. The molecular formula for cyanocobalamin is C63H88CoN14O14P meaning there are 63 carbon (C) atoms, 88 hydrogen (H) atoms, one cobalt (Co) atom, 14 nitrogen (N) atoms, 14 oxygen (O) atoms and one phosphorous (P) atom.

Vitamin B12 - Cobalamin

What are B12’s Primary Functions?

You’ve probably seen B12 listed on energy drink labels and assume it has something to do with. . .  well, energy. It is more of an assistant than an actual energy producer in the way you may be thinking. Cobalamin plays a role in synthesizing DNA – an essential aspect of red blood cell formation, as well as maintaining the myelin sheath around nerve fibers – providing aid in healthy nervous system activity(2).

Another important role of vitamin B12 is in the metabolism of homocysteine. Homocysteine is an amino acid that at increased levels indicates the possibility of and/or can increase a persons risk of cardiovascular disease(3)(4). Cobalamin works alongside Folate and B6 to help with this metabolism and when there are low levels of available cobalamin, homocysteine levels will increase since the cobalamin provides an important role in this process(5). So, when you see cobalamin listed on your energy drink label, it’s not directly giving you energy, its aiding bodily functions that help maintain normal operations.

On the topic of energy drinks, I personally don’t drink them, but I had a look at one of those 5-Hour Energy labels and see that it contains 500 mcg of Cyanocobalamin, which is listed as 8333% of your daily value. Cobalamin is a water-soluble vitamin and excess is filtered by the kidneys (only a small amount is stored in the liver) so the vast majority of what you comsume is simply being passed in your urine.

In fact, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), according to The National Academies Press, for vitamin B12 is 2.4 mcg per day for adult men and women. Some people 50 years and older may have absorption problems because they are not producing enough stomach acid to properly break down food and release the vitamin. Because of this, they may have to consume foods that are fortified with B12 or take supplements(2).

B12 Deficiency and Toxicity

Though there is no known toxicity from consuming an excess of B12, I am curious whether the increased consumption of drinkable supplements like 5-hour energy, will cause us to start seeing side-effects from consuming excess B12. From what I understand, there has not been adequate research into the effects of B12 consumption at the level that which is now possible with supplemental B12. It’s unlikely that you’d simply eat an excess of B12 from food, but when supplements can cram upwards of 16000% of your daily need into one serving it makes me wonder if there is a possibility for toxicity. I’m not a Registered Dietitian (yet), nor can I call myself any kind of health professional (yet), but I think common sense plays a role here: more is not always better. I just wonder at what point can the body simply cannot keep up with the excess or maybe an infinite amount can be taken without issue.

Deficiency, on the other hand, is definitely a concern. Not consuming enough B12 or being unable to absorb enough can cause pernicious anemia, nerve damage, disorientation, problems with memory, dementia, and tingling and numbness in limbs(2)(6). As mentioned earlier, older individuals may have trouble absorbing the vitamin due to decreased stomach acid production, and vegans and other non-meat-eaters fail to consume the vitamin from it’s most common source. Options for individuals with low intake or poor absorption can increase their consumption of food fortified with B12, take supplements, or get injections of B12(7).

What Foods DO You Naturally Get B12 From?

The answer is simple. MEAT! This is why vegans and vegetarians often have a B12 deficiency, particularly if they don’t eat foods that are fortified with the vitamin. Animal products including clams, crab, ground beef, salmon, eggs as well as fortified cereals, fortified soy milk, and dairy such as yogurt and cheese all contain B12.

There are lots more foods that contain cobalamin so if you would like to look up other good food sources there are a many resources available for this. The two that I recommend using (as I’ve used them myself) are the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, and SuperTracker on ChooseMyPlate.gov. If you want to look up what foods contain B12, I recommend using the USDA Database, but if you want to see what nutrients are in the foods you’re eating, and track it, I suggest SuperTracker.

Now that you have read up a bit on B12, Please follow this link to fill out the second survey. By filling out this, and any of the previous B12 surveys, and entering your email you will be entered into a giveaway for a t-shirt with my illustration of B12 (in-progress below) printed on it!

B12 Cobalamin Molecule Illustration by Sara Kerr The Kerrminator

I’ve added a couple additional ways to get entries into the giveaway, so feel free to use this rafflecopter widget below to score a couple more chances at winning:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway Terms and Conditions:

  • Winners must reside in one of the 48 contiguous states -Must be 18 years or older to enter
  • No PO Boxes for Shipping. If address is undeliverable or prize is unclaimed and sent back, winner is responsible for re-shipping charges.
  • Prizes will be shipped within 30 days of giveaway end
  • All entries will be verified
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply to email notification or another winner will be selected

References and Resources:

(1)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cobalamin
(2)Thompson J, Manore M, Vaughan L. The Science of Nutrition. 3rd ed. Pearson. 2014. Pages 301-304, 326-328, 491-492.
(3)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homocysteine
(4)https://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/vitamin-b12-cobalamin
(5)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNKVrSAvYnw
(6)http://www.virtualmedstudent.com/links/nutrition/vitaminB12.html
(7) http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-B12


*Disclaimer: I, Sara Kerr, am an Undergraduate Student at Oregon State University and I do not provide this information as a licensed medical professional. It is for your information only – you should do further research and consult your doctor or a Registered Dietitian before taking any supplements or changing your diet. That being said, if you have any questions, I’d be happy to find out what I can as a student, but you should always consult your doctor before making lifestyle/diet changes. Oregon State University is not affiliated with this blog. I operate this blog personally and independently from any companies or institutions.

How Much Do You Know About Vitamin B12?

The results of the previous vitamin survey are in! I’ll be doing my research project on vitamin B12. There is a link below to the second survey, which will take a little bit longer than the first, but should be pretty quick (less than 10 minutes).

Vitamin B12Fill out the questions to the best of your knowledge without any help from others, books, the internet, etc. This survey is meant to assess YOUR current knowledge of vitamin B12 so I can base my article around what people want to learn about it or what they should know about it. Don’t worry about getting the correct answer, just worry about answering honestly. In other words, it’s OK to know nothing about B12 so don’t guess, simply select “I have no idea” or leave it blank if you don’t know.

As an extra incentive, if you include your email at the end of the survey, you will be entered into a giveaway for a B12 t-shirt, custom designed by me. If you fill out the next survey, you will get another entry! I’ll be giving away a couple t-shirts so there will be multiple winners! (I will not use your email for any reasons beyond informing you of the third and final survey, when the B12 article is published, and if you win the giveaway!).

Thank you in advance!

Follow this link to the B12 Survey.

FYI – For those of you who missed the first article, this survey is being used for the purposes of gathering information about what I should devote my research on for my chemistry class project. I had people vote on vitamins and minerals that they want to know more about and vitamin B12 is of the most interest to people. My project will be to assess where peoples’ knowledge of B12 is lacking so I can devote a blog article to informing my readers about B12 (such as where it comes from, what it does in the body, what it looks like, etc.). After the article is publish, I will post a third and final survey to assess whether my article was helpful and if you now know more about B12 than you had previously. If all goes well, I’d like to continue with this sort of thing (with t-shirt giveaways and all!) so I can deepen my own knowledge of vitamins and minerals while spreading what I’ve learned to others.

Merging Careers: Art & Science, hand-in-hand?

IMG_2081-001

A blogger I follow published an article yesterday mentioning how July is half over already and its been a month since he last posted anything. I realized I haven’t published a new article since May! Well, if you’re interested, I’d like to explain why:

About a year to a year and a half ago I was living in an apartment with my boyfriend and another roommate. I was working crappy jobs, spending not nearly enough time on freelance work, and doing almost no creative projects just for myself. I was struggling with the idea of continuing on my path of shitty jobs to pay the bills, and finding time to pursue my freelance career as an artist, designer, and illustrator.

Let me backtrack to about seven years ago: I was graduating from high school in upstate New York — legit upstate, not just 20 miles north of the city, but I digress — I was top of my class and hating almost every minute of it (mostly dreading the idea of having to give a speech, plus other bs that was going on with the administration). I was the valedictorian and by the end of the school year, I had no intentions of going to college. As you can probably deduce, my focus in high school was fine art so, I did consider art school, but ultimately chose not to go for a myriad of reasons:

  1. I had my older brother, TJ, as an example to follow (sorry brotato, but you were the guinea pig). He went to a school in Boston for music technology and dropped out after a year because it wasn’t until after he was already down the rabbit hole, that he realized he hated it. One year. Over $30,000 in debt. No thanks.
  2. I already had a job that allowed me to explore my creativity in fashion design, graphic design, web design, embroidery, modeling, writing, photography, illustration, and plenty other creative outlets. I was basically going to school and getting paid for it.
  3. I wasn’t 100% certain it was worth it to get a degree in fine art since I was cocky and let myself believe that I was already really good and wouldn’t learn anything.
  4. I felt like I had something to prove and wanted to show people that I could take the “hard road” to success and succeed without a degree.
  5. I didn’t think the degree was worth the financial burden.
  6. I didn’t want to conform to what I considered society’s standard: to follow along with the crowd as one of The Man’s little marionettes, and being forced into a life as a puppet getting walked through the educational system to fetch my piece of paper that would, down the line, mean something to employers.
  7. I was bitter.

There were probably more reasons, but the gist of it is that I didn’t want to be rushed to a decision, and the more that people tell me I have to do something, the less I want to do it. Plus, I’m a thinker, a planner, a worrier, and probably, nay definitely, a little bit of a procrastinator. I wanted time to think about what I really want to spend the rest of my life doing and to this day, I still feel like 18, for most people, is too young to know the answer to such an important question.

At the same time, I reflect and find hypocrisy in my opinions (this is going to be a tangent, so bear with me). I hate the notion that we have to have very specific careers and learn very specific skills to do a job that contributes to a larger entity. People aren’t as well rounded as they used to be and seriously lack a lot of basic skills they should know, as humans, in order to survive. People don’t even know how to plant and garden for shit’s sake! If grocery stores just vanished, I can’t imagine how many people would just starve because they can’t sustain themselves. Anyway, the hypocrisy lies within my mindset of wanting to find that one thing I want to do for the rest of my life: If I want to do one thing, isn’t that limiting, and narrowing my path to well-roundedness? I’d like to think not since I intend to pursue art as well as a science and I have other hobbies too, but I kind of feel a little hypocritical.

So, fast forward to last year. I had a conversation with Ryan (my then boyfriend, now fiancé), about my career:job:life angst. He told me he understands my reasoning behind wanting to thoroughly consider careers before jumping into school and wasting my time and money; he too went into the work force right out of high school. He then told me that eventually I need to get off my ass and make a decision because I can’t sit around thinking about it forever.

At first, I was a little insulted, but it was very sound, logical advice and it really kicked me into high gear over the past year. Sometimes I just need a boot to the ass to get motivated.

While pondering careers, I was hired to do a sketch of a woman based only off of verbal descriptions, like forensic sketch artists do, and it got me thinking about how I’d like to maybe become a sketch artist for law enforcement. After some research, I discovered that job is primarily, though not always, left to someone within the force who already has artistic skills due to the liabilities involved in having a civilian interacting with witnesses and victims as well as the financial burden of hiring an independent contractor.

With that in mind, I considered what areas of police work I could see myself being involved in so I could get my foot in the door to becoming a sketch artist. I had been interested in forensics for a long time and decided to see what I’d be looking at career-wise, locally. I signed up for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office Citizens’ Academy – a two month long class that walks citizens through various areas of the sheriff’s office, both lecture based and hands-on – and part of it involves a presentation by someone within the forensics department.

I very quickly learned that the jobs in my area are competitive and not very interesting: It would most likely involve finger print analysis or just collecting evidence. It’s possible other agencies nearby might have more interesting jobs, but after some consideration, I didn’t think I’d be able to handle the grotesque nature of the job. Aaaand just like that, two potential careers went out the windowIMG_5195.

I don’t remember exactly when, but I watched a few documentaries about nutrition, health, and obesity in America and it got me thinking about how much common sense people seem to lack in regards to eating right, and many peoples’ hypocrisy when it comes to not taking care of themselves then expecting someone else to pay their health sickcare bills. I thought back to when I was researching primary care physicians when I first moved to Oregon four years ago and how I ended up choosing a naturopath. What attracted me to my naturopath was her thorough examination into my health history and her genuine caring and interest in my health. Also, the fact that she is conscientious of my preferences and opinions of how I want to get healthier and doesn’t just prescribe pills right off the bat to cure everything (though she can if need be).IMG_2094

It clicked for me that nutrition is something I feel passionate about and enough so that I can definitively see myself making a career out of it. More IMG_3058-001research ensued and to make this long story a little shorter, I’ll just say that my goal is to become a Registered Dietitian and I will be attending Oregon State University in the Fall (finances and vehicle longevity permitting).

I still intend to pursue my art, and in an ideal world I will be able to combine the two in some way. I have ideas, I just need to keep chugging along, stop procrastinating, and just. Get. It. Done.

I’m working on — by working on, I mean it’s churning in my head — a series of phrases to help keep me focused and motivate me, that I want to turn into a series of illustrations or t-shirts or both. You can expect a transitional mish-mash in my blog topics that incorporate either or both art and nutrition and I hope you find all topics interesting and helpful.

One final note! An amazing coincidence happened this past year that I hope will help transition and merge my artistic career with a health and wellness career and I can’t wait to talk about it, but I have to wait until I get the go-ahead to do so. Yeah, that explains nothing. . . just stay tuned! It’s exciting!