Iron In Your Blood And Lead In Your Pencil

Put them in their place and not in other places they do not belong. Another  claimed benefit for vitamin B12 is in chelating and removing heavy metals like mercury and lead from your brain and body. This is apparently due to the methylation action of the vitamin which is highest in the methylcobalamin form. B-12 is not just for anemia…

Another stimulant booster or tonic that was  commonly available to mushers in farm and feed stores was an injectable combination of selenium and vitamin E. Like B-12, the injectable route was necessary to achieve absorption of compounds poorly metabolized when taken orally. Like B-12 there are new chemical forms of selenium, two organic salts that have higher absorption and activity. However, the margin of safety and tolerance of selenium is low.

Hearing about two mushers who stopped feeding liver to their dogs because of supposed vitamin A toxicity, my first reaction was serious doubt that this could be true for any reasonably balanced diet. Most experienced sled dog racers and dog breeders generally in the last century recognized the value of liver as a supplement. Recalling the Gonzo Dr. Kronfeld’s warnings about iron salt levels in commercial dog food and the high level of iron in liver and red meat, I wondered if dietary iron could not be a major factor in those two mushers’ problem. Further research online turned up supporting evidence plus a windfall bonus discovery about the recently available form of B-12, methylcobalamin. We used to give sled dogs injections of the older less potent form, cyanocobalamin, to help them recover from fatigue and to pick up their appetites. Read on…

 Iron is an essential mineral used to transport oxygen to all parts of the body. A slight deficiency in iron causes anemia (fatigue/weakness), and a chronic deficiency can lead to organ failure. Conversely, too much iron leads to production of harmful free radicals, and interferes with metabolism, causing damage to organs like the heart and liver. The body is able to regulate uptake of iron, so overdose is rare and usually only occurs when people take supplements. Iron from natural food sources, like the ones listed below, are considered safe and healthy. While iron is better absorbed from heme (meat) sources, non-heme (plant) iron is better regulated causing less damage to the body. The current percent daily value for iron is 18 milligrams (mg). Below is a list of high iron foods. For more high iron foods see the extended lists of iron rich foods (heme and non-heme), and the list of fruits and vegetables high in iron.

 NAS Nutrient Requirements of Dogs 1974:

Iron toxicity in dogs has been studied extensively and is associated with anorexia, weight loss and decreased serum albumin concentration. Although some dogs have been fed as long as 18 months on diets containing 1-percent iron oxide, other salts have proved toxic at very low levels. Ferrous sulfate administered orally produced gastrointestinal damage when fed in a dosage of 12 mg/kg of body weight. Ferrous carbonate did not produce such changes at

1500 mg/kg but did so at 3000mg/kg.

Methylcobalamin and the New Story of Vitamin B12

by Ed Sharpe
The 50th anniversary of the discovery of vitamin B12 came and went and nobody noticed. There were no conferences to mark the occasion, no fanfares, no speeches, not a mention in the press, not even in the nutritional media.  “Vitamin B12 isn’t sexy,” was the way a friend, a sports nutrition consultant, put it.  “just for old people, to keep them from getting anemic.”Oh, yeah? Welcome to the new story of vitamin B12.

There’s a buzz over B12 these days for two reasons, one scientific and the other economic. First, the science: Over the last decade or so, researchers have strongly implicated the toxic amino acid homocysteine in a variety of disease states. Homocysteine tends to accumulate in the body whenever B12 gets deficient, and this accumulation has been linked with increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease1,2, cardiovascular disease3, chronic fatigue syndrome/fibromyalgia4and multiple sclerosis5 among other conditions.

Folic acid deficiency can also lead to increased homocysteine levels – that’s because folate and B12, in their active ‘coenzyme’ forms, are both necessary cofactors for the enzymatic conversion of homocysteine to methionine. Until recently it’s been thought that the availability of folate was the most important determinant of the body’s ability to remethylate homocysteine. New research has revealed that vitamin B12 is more important for homocysteine disposal than previously believed5, 6, 7.  In particular, a study conducted among dialysis patients with kidney failure showed that a monthly shot of B12 plus conventional oral folate was more effective than high-dose folate without B12 in lowering elevated homocysteine6.

The coenzyme form of vitamin B12 is known as methylcobalamin or methyl B12. It’s the only form of vitamin B12 which can directly participate in homocysteine metabolism. In addition, converting homocysteine to methionine via methyl B12 generates an increased supply of SAMe (S-adenosyl methionine), the body’s most important methyl donor. Indeed, some of the benefits of methyl B12, such as protection from neurotoxicity, appear to derive from increased production of SAMe8, 9. Methyl B12 has also been reported to be neurotrophic or growth-promoting for nerve cells10, 11, a property which may help regenerate central and peripheral nervous tissues damaged in disorders such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis12 and diabetic peripheral neuropathy13.

All of this scientific news is hot stuff, but it’s still only half the story. The other half is that starting around 1998, methylcobalamin first became widely available in this country at an affordable price, thus offering new options for treating B12 deficiencies and lowering elevated homocysteine. Before then, methyl B12 had been enormously expensive and widely available only in Japan, where it still remains a prescription medication. Today any health-conscious American consumer can easily access the most powerful known form of vitamin B12.

Methylcobalamin and Cyanocobalamin

When most of us think of vitamin B12, the molecule we really have in mind is cyanocobalamin or cyano B12. As its name suggests, cyano B12 has a cyanide group (CN) attached, whereas methyl B12 carries a methyl group (CH3) instead. Very little of the body’s natural B12 is in the cyano form under normal circumstances; exceptions are in cases of cyanide poisoning or chronic smoking, both of which can raise cyanocobalamin levels. The fact that most of our vitamin pills contain cyano rather than methyl B12 is largely an accident of history, the result of using charcoal to filter extracts during the isolation of B12. Unknown to the early researchers who first isolated B12, the traces of cyanide present in such charcoal rapidly convert all natural forms of B12, including methyl B12 into the more stable cyano form. As a result, the discovery of the B12 coenzymes and their metabolic role was delayed for years.

Whenever we swallow a conventional vitamin pill, any cyano B12 present gets carried along and absorbed by an intricate “bucket brigade” of B12-binding proteins. Operating in the stomach and small intestine, this transport system provides a very efficient mechanism for absorbing a few micrograms of B12, yet is quickly swamped by anything larger. As a result, only about 1% of a large oral dose of any form of B12 usually makes it into the bloodstream. Fortunately, we can bypass intestinal absorption entirely by taking B12 sublingually. Sublingual administration is a simple and effective way of substantially raising blood levels by absorbing B12 through the oral mucosa. It’s also unquestionably the most convenient way to take B12, especially for people taking supplements on a daily basis.

So let’s say we’ve taken a sublingual tablet and a significant amount of B12 shows up in the bloodstream. End of story? Not if it’s cyano B12. Most of the B12 naturally circulating in the blood plasma is in the methyl form. Before cyano B12 can join this metabolic pool and be properly utilized by the body, it has to be stripped of its cyano group and ‘reduced’ (i.e., made to gain electrons) in a time-consuming, multi-step process14. The result of all this processing is a B12 molecule with its cobalt ion reduced from the +3 to the +1 oxidation state, ready to take on a methyl group and be distributed throughout the body as methyl B12.

It should be obvious that there are certain advantages inherent in taking methyl B12 as a supplement, versus ‘ordinary’ B12. For one thing, methyl B12 doesn’t have to engage the body’s resources to convert it into coenzyme form, it’s already there. Even more important is the fact that methylcobalamin is the most highly reduced form of vitamin B12 possible; this makes methyl B12 a very potent reducing agent (antioxidant) indeed. In a body undergoing oxidative stress — for example from a disease process or from a diet deficient in antioxidants — it’s possible that methyl B12 production can become impaired. A similar derangement in the cellular synthesis of adenosyl B12 (another reduced coenzyme form of B12 into which methyl B12 can be converted) is already known to occur in association with vitamin E deficiency15. So it makes sense to consume B12 in a form in which it’s already metabolically active and maximally reduced, and thereby put less of a strain on our bodies’ antioxidative capacity.

How Much Is Enough?

How much methyl B12 should be taken for optimal health? In some studies on animals and humans, large doses (equivalent to 25-40 milligrams per day for an adult human) were found to halt or improve neural degeneration10-12. The problem is, nobody knows the long-term effects of such huge doses. A more prudent approach would be to take about a tenth as much, say, 3 milligrams per day (3,000 micrograms) as a maintenance dose, with the dose increased as needed in cases of increased stress, oxidative or otherwise.

So here’s a belated ‘Happy 50th Birthday’ to B12. With all of the health and pro-longevity benefits of methyl B12 now becoming evident including warding off such age-related diseases as Alzheimer’s1, 2, atherosclerosis3, rheumatoid arthritis16 and possibly even cancer17, 18, it seems that the old vitamin’s got some new life in it. May it and we continue in partnership for many birthdays yet to come.

Let’s see if it works for sled dogs! Especially if you have been sucked into giving your dogs antacids by over-reaching over-zealous race veterinarians. By the way, sometimes gastro-esophageal reflux is a result of low, not excess, stomach acidity. Because food digestion in the stomach requires sufficient acid, the stomach does not empty and eventually contents may be vomited. Even stomach acid that is inadequate for proper digestion is sufficiently corrosive to damage tissue outside the stomach and cause serious harm if inhaled.

Speedy Huskies Imported From Siberia

The article was originally published in a winter tourism, sports and history tabloid that my mother and I put together in 1972. It was solicited from Raymond Thompson, who was a neighbor and friend of Leonhard Seppala in Washington State in their later years.

Some errors in the OCR text have been reconciled with the original version, and it remains to insert the table of dog breed characteristics that he refers to…

The amazing growth of sled dog racing, during the past few years, has resulted in a steadily growing interest in so-called “huskies” or sled dog breeds. Far out-distancing other pure-bred dogs, in this respect, is the Siberian Husky, The Samoyed, similar in size, but lacking the speed of the. Siberian, has been all but abandoned by serious sled dog racers and the Alaskan. Malamute, heavier and slower, is now used principally in spectator sports, such as weight pulling contests, freighting sled races, short “one-dog races,” etc.

A dozen years ago, this writer helped organize “The Seppala Siberian Husky Club,” not only to promote interest in our own favorite breed of dogs, but to honor our very good friends, Leonhard and Constance Seppala, from whom we had received our  “Seppala strain” American Kennel Club registered Siberians.

One of the very first projects of the SSHC was to research the origin of the Siberian Sled Dog and to publish our findings in “The Siberian Husky News,” – a newsletter issued by the Club. Here we ran into real problems. Vol I of “Pure-Bred Dogs” – a book on The Breeds and Standards as  recognized by the American Kennel Club, was published in 1929. Only two “Arctic” dogs are listed in this publication, the “Eskimo” and the Samoyed.

Attempting to pinpoint the.actual date of AKC registration of the first Siberian Husky, we wrote the American Kennel Club, in this regard, on March 6, 1961. Chester A. Hager, Office Manager, replied that all old registrations were on microfilm. Mr. Hager advised us that “to favor you with the statistical information which you desire would be too time consuming a project for us to undertake.” The AKC official added that “Siberian Huskies were admitted to registration in our Stud Book on October 14, 1930, with the first dog registered during December of that year”.

This response from the AKC proved one point – we could expect no help from that source, in our own research on the origin of the Siberian Sled Dog. In our own files, thanks to Leonhard Seppala, were photostatic copies of pedigrees on Siberian dogs, owned by Seppala Siberian Kennels, Poland Springs, Maine, dated January 24, 1926. The pedigrees were .on,two ‘Siberian pups (from the same litter) whelped April 2,1924. The two pups were sired by “Togo,” Seppala’s most famous lead dog. A male was named “Jan” and his sister, “Malinka.” The male pup was described as “Dark Gray,” and the female, simply “Gray.” The Dam of the pups was “Nome” and they were whelped in the Seppala kennels, at Nome, Alaska.

Leonhard Seppala acquired his first Siberian dogs, in 1909, from Jafet Lindeberg. These dogs were brought over from Siberia for use by Roald Amundsen in a sled dog expedition to the North Pole but were never used for that purpose when Amundsen abandoned the Arctic expedition.

Seppala, a very astute and dedicated sled dog breeder and musher, kept pedigrees on his Siberian Dogs. The pedigrees mentioned above, include a five generation record of animals dating back to the original imports from Siberia. No other dog breeder had kept such complete records. Sled dog fanciers today, including breeders of AKC registered Siberian Huskies, as well as those who breed racing dogs with known traces of “Siberian Dog” strains in their breeding, should be forever grateful to the world famous musher. Both Leonhard Seppala and his devoted wife, Constance, are now deceased. Leonhard departing this life a few years ahead of Constance.

Backtracking, we actually have no record of the Siberian dog in North America, prior to 1909. A Russian trader, named Goosak, is credited, by most historians, with bringing the first Siberian dogs to Alaska. This was in 1909, and Goosak’s team, driven by Thrustrup, ran in the second All Alaska Sweepstakes. The Siberian dogs finished third in the 408 mile race.

Fox-Maule Ramsay, a mining man, was so impressed by the performance of the Siberian dogs, that he crossed the Bering Sea, by-passed Kamchatka Peninsula, on into the sea of Okhotsk, went up the Kolyma River, in northeastern Siberia, and there purchased “a large number of the best type of these Siberian dogs, bringing them back to Nome, along with two men who understood them thoroughly.” The quote is from “The Great Dog Races of Nome,” by Esther Birdsall Darling, President, 1916, of the Nome Kennel Club.

Mrs. Darling, a co-partner with famous sled dog racer, “Scotty” Allan, made these observations in her booklet:

“These Siberian dogs, generally and erroneously called “Siberian wolf hounds”, in the “Outside” papers, are suggestive neither of hounds nor wolves. On the contrary they have much more the appearance of the fox, with pointed noses, prick ears, and bushy tails curled up over their backs. They are wonderfully even and steady in their work, gentle and tireless, requiring comparatively little food, and but little time in which to digest it. Any number of them can be turned loose together in a corral or stable, with hardly any fear of their fighting. Their allegiance is given to the one who feeds them.

The Alaskans, a comprehensive name used for convenience to distinguish them from the distinct type of Siberians, may be malamutes or huskies (native Alaskan dogs) or they may be setters, pointers, collies, hounds, airedales or what-not, with or without a strain of the malamute or huskie. These dogs are-far more. individual, less like machines in their characteristics, than are their rivals the Siberians; less easy to manage, too, but exceedingly intelligent and responsive, showing much pride in their work, and a deep and abiding affection for their masters, as well as great fleetness.”

We shall refer to Esther Birdsall Darling’s comments later on, in our summary on early records of the Siberian dog, as compared to present AKC standards, but, in the meantime, let us explore the authentic history of the breed, in the land of origin, Siberia.

ORIGIN: The AKC “Breed History” states that “The Siberian Husky” often more accurately called the “Siberian Chichi,” is a native of northeastern Siberia, particularly the area drained by the Kolyma River, where the strain has been kept pure for untold centuries.”

To pinpoint this location, the Chuchi Sea lies immediately north and west of Bering Strait – the strait itself separating Alaska’s Seward Peninsula and Siberia’s Chuchi Peninsula, by a comparatively few miles. Further south, Siberia’s Kamchatka Peninsula extends deep into the Pacific Ocean and to reach the Kolyma River district (where Fox- Maule procured his first Siberian dogs) a journey of 200 miles, by ship, was necessary before one could travel up the Kolyma River, by skin boat in summer or dog sled in winter.

The best racing dogs did not come from the Chuchi Peninsula, but from further inland, southwest, on the Anadyr Peninsula, where from one side of the Anadyr Mountains, the Anadyr River Flows into the Gulf of Anadyr and from the western slope of the same range, the Kolyma River drains into the Sea of Okhotsk.

Prior to 1935, when Russia stopped all exporting of dogs from Siberia, a brisk trade was carried on by Alaskans with Russian and Siberian traders. Considerable information on the Siberian dogs and their native owners, is found in various journals published from 1870 on, but none of these is available in book stores and only in limited numbers, for research in the larger libraries. Our collaborator, Louise Foley, did extensive research for us, in The Smithsonian, Congressional and other libraries, and even had the assistance of Russian and German translators.

Our own library, plus our first contact with Arctic sled dogs almost 60 years ago and our breeding and training of pure-bred Siberian Huskies, in recent years and our considerable experience with Eskimo, Samoyed, and nonregisterable breeds of northern dogs, are of course, factors in our general summary on the background, character, etc., of the Siberian dog.

Our research indicates that two rather distinct strains of sled dogs were used for several hundred years by natives in different parts of Siberia. The “interior” dogs were generally smaller than those found along the north Pacific and Arctic coasts. For example, dogs of the Kamchatka Peninsula were described by one historian, as a team “of fourteen big wolf-like dogs with shaggy coats and pointed ears.”

Similar references to thq size of the “eastern Siberian Coast” dogs, appear in several books. Quite possibly this strain of large wolflike Siberian dog may have had ancestry related to the native dog of Alaska’s Seward Peninsula, now known as the Alaskan Malamute.

The Siberian dogs first imported into Alaska, were, on the average, similar in size to the standards set up by dog breeders and recognized as “pure-bred Siberian Huskies” by the American Kennel Club. Some of the journals that mention large Siberian dogs date back to 1865. But Jochelson wrote that the Kamchedal (Kamchatka) dog, once known as “the biggest and best driving dog of Siberia” was by 1911, “small in size”. Historians also mention a famine of several years duration, when fish were so scarce that dogs starved and subsequent litters produced pups of diminished sizes.

The accompanying table shows relative sizes by AKC Standards for Arctic dogs. Standards for color and coat have also been established. All colors and white and all markings are allowed. Various shades of wolf and the silver grays, tan and black with white points are usual. Head markings – – including cap-like mask and spectacles are typical.

The eyes may be either brown or blue, one brown eye and one blue eye being permissible, but not desirable.

The coat should be double, with the undercoat soft and downy. The outer coat is very, thick – – with a smooth, full-furred appearance, longer outer fur is allowed by AKC Standard as long as the texture remains soft. “Most important of the Siberian Husky’s characteristics are medium size and bone, soft coat, high-set ears, ease and freedom of action, and good disposition.”

So much for this brief reference to AKC Standards. The Eskimo Dog, mentioned in the chart for the purpose of comparison only, was dropped from AKC registration, nearly 20 years ago, for lack of breeder interest.

Russian fur hunters in the early 1700’s, penetrated northeastern Siberia, establishing fur trade for the fabulous sable with the natives of that region. We note several references to the use of the Siberian dog in hunting game birds, deer and even fur bearing animals. According to Middendorff, the Tungus tribe of natives used their dogs for hunting the sable.

Another writer, Waldermar Jochelson also mentioned the Tungus hunting dog was used by the Siberian natives, after crossing this smaller animal with a wolf-like sledge dog. The Tungus dog was apparently a breed, later recognized as a Spitz. This dog was especially bred for hunting and according to such authorities as Middendorff, Jochelson and Borgoras, the smaller animal might be the missing link between the wolf type larger dog of northeastern Siberia of 100 years ago or more and the Siberian Husky of today, as recognized by the American Kennel Club and the Canadian Kennel Club.

In our own experience, in northwestern Canada, we had two so-called “Husky” that had definite traces of Siberian dog in their appearance and general characteristics. Both of these dogs were trained to hunt the Canadian lynx and the pine marten in the woods and also to retrieve beaver from the water, after the animal was shot by the hunter.

In quite recent years, a breeder of registered Siberian Huskies by the name of Caldwell, trained his dogs to hunt rabbits. Unfortunately of the material we had examined and all other information available, there is very little reference to the use of the Siberian dog in hunting, but the inference is there. For instance, one prominent historian merely states that the Siberian dog was used as a work animal and companion for children and a hunting dog.

There is interesting evidence of how the Siberian natives treated their dogs. Jochelson states that “The Koryak, Chukchee and Kamchadal, as well as the Tungus always feed their dogs out of doors”. Some tribes like the Yakuts, never fondle their dogs and trained them with great cruelty. The main food of the Siberian dog among the Yakuts consisting of fish and dog salmon dried in the sun, is fed dry to the dogs during journeys. The procuring and storing of food for both natives and their dogs, of course, went hand in hand and the available supply of salmon, during the normal run, would in fact be divided between man and dog.

In contrast to the Yakuts, the Koryak were found to be quite fond of their dogs and trained them by kind words, rather than with a stick. While most dogs were staked outside, one tribe on the upper Kolyma River was known to build roomy sheds on the side of their own huts for the protection of their dogs, during a snowstorm.

The gelding or castration of male dogs apparently was common practice and certain tribes like the Kamchadal and the Koryak also cropped the tails of their dogs, believing this would increase their speed. This would appear to have been a cruel practice, as the dogs used their well furred tails as a nose warmer all curled up in the snow in cold weather.

A hundred years or so ago, Russianized natives commenced selling their dogs to the white fur trader. At that time, a good dog could be bought with four or five orange fox skins and an American shotgun was good in exchange for two or more dogs. Olaf Swenson wrote that he paid as little $10.00 for ordinary dogs and as high as $150.00 for one that considered an unusual leader.

It is, of course, impossible to cover in detail, the many facets of the origin of the Siberian dog and we could be pleased to give further information on the source material for research, to any reader interested.

In our own experience, in northwestern Canada, we had two socalled “Husky” that had definite traces of Siberian dog in their appearance and general characteristics. Both of these dogs were trained to hunt the Canadian lynx and the pine marten in the woods and also to retrieve beaver from the water, after the animal was shot by the hunter. In quite recent years, a breeder of registered Siberian Huskies by the name of Caldwell, trained ‘his dogs to hunt rabbits. Unfortunately of the material we had examined and all other information available, there is very little reference to the use of the Siberian , dog in hunting, but the inference is there. For instance, one prominent historian merely states that the Siberian dog was used as a work animal and companion for childr and a hunting dog.