Dear Living Well Daily Reader,
Called “the hellcat” by some White House staff, Mary Todd Lincoln was like no other first lady.
History books have painted her as a woman with wild mood swings; a violent temper; a compulsive shopping habit; and obsessive fears of poverty, burglary and storms.
Not to mention her extreme vanity and habit of publicly berating her famous husband.
The cause of her bizarre and often destructive behavior has been hypothesized by historians for centuries — pitching everything from syphilis to bipolar disorder to severe “womanly” issues.
However, none of these guesses has ever been proven.
But according to Dr. John G. Sotos, a cardiologist, executive at Intel and medical consultant to the television industry, a simple vitamin deficiency is likely to blame for Mrs. Lincoln’s unusual ways.
You see, after finding his first clue in an 1852 letter, Dr. Sotos believes that the former first lady suffered from a dangerous vitamin deficiency.
“Just about all of them”
In the letter, President Lincoln mentions that his wife was suffering from a mouth sore, which can be caused by vitamin B12 deficiency. This unsuspecting tidbit led Dr. Sotos to further investigate Mrs. Lincoln’s health.
After careful evaluation of her documented mental and physical symptoms, Dr. Sotos realized that both all be explained by a condition called pernicious anemia.
Pernicious anemia starts with an autoimmune siege on the stomach, which alters the stomach’s ability to produce B12-absorbing chemicals. But it may take months or even years for the first signs of deficiency to appear once the body’s natural levels of B12 are exhausted.
And since vitamin B12 is essential for brain health and mental function, it easily explains why Mary may have suffered so greatly with mood and cognitive issues.
But B12 deficiencies can also greatly affect the body in other ways, like impairing its ability to make DNA and red blood cells, which can affect every organ in the body.
Mary Todd Lincoln. Source: ehistory.osu.edu
In his recently published article in the journal Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, Dr. Sotos reports that complex disorders like pernicious anemia that affect many organ also come with a laundry list of symptoms and Mary had “just about all of them.”
Her mental symptoms included occasional delusions, irritability and hallucinations, despite being of clear mind most of the time.
Her physical symptoms included fatigue, fevers, headaches, swelling of the hands and face, eye issues, rapid heartbeat, weakness and pallor.
Sotos thinks Mary was genetically predisposed to the condition, but it’s also speculated that this disease may be caused by certain types of ulcers.
A Common Cause
Today, cases of extreme pernicious anemia are rare. Common blood tests can detect the disorder early, and it can be easily treated with B12 supplementation.
Unfortunately for Mary Lincoln, she lived at time when treatment wasn’t available. And, as Sotos put it, a time “before physicians could make a diagnosis that would’ve prevented 150 years of misunderstanding about her.”
While we will never know if Mary suffered from a B12 deficiency for sure, there is one fact about vitamin B12 that is certain — you’re probably deficient in it.
Studies have shown that 40 percent of the U.S. is already vitamin B12 deficient.
This means that there’s a good chance your body could already be experiencing detrimental health effects caused by lack of B12.
But what makes it worse, it’s really hard for folks to get a healthy dose of B12 through diet alone. This is especially true for older folks, because absorbing dietary B12 gets more difficult for the body as it ages.
Not to mention some supplements won’t do the trick, either.
You see, they may contain a form of B12 called cyanocobalamin and isn’t as easily absorbed by the body as B12’s natural form, methylcobalamin.
So it’s important to look for a supplement with methylcobalamin when choosing a B12 supplement.
Managing editor, Living Well Daily