Vitamin B12

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Vitamin B12 belongs to the vitamin B group of micronutrients. It is essential for growth. Since the human body cannot manufacture Vitamin B12, it has to be taken from external sources. Found in a variety of foods such as fish, shellfish, meat, and dairy products, it is bound to the protein in food.

Vitamin B12 was discovered in the early 20th century when researchers looking for a cure for pernicious anemia discovered that vitamin B12 supplements could cure the disease.

Why should I be aware of this?

  • The human body needs vitamin B12 in order to create red blood cells and keep the nervous system healthy.
  • It is also needed to absorb folic acid and it helps to release energy.
  • B12 is absorbed through the intestines from a variety of foods.
  • Vitamin B12 cannot be absorbed on its own. It has to combine with another substance called 'intrinsic factor', which is produced by your stomach lining.
  • B12 is mainly found in meat and dairy products. Those on a vegatarian diet free of dairy products need to take B12 supplements.
  • It can be stored in the body in small amounts, with around 80% being stored in the liver.
  • It may take three or four years for the symptoms of B12 deficiency to develop.
  • Vitamin B12 is also called cobalamin because it contains the metal cobalt

All about Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is an essential water-soluble vitamin that is commonly found in a variety of foods. Also called cobalamin, Vitamin B12 is one of the most complex of all the vitamins and is derived mainly from animal and dairy products.

It is frequently used in combination with other B vitamins in a vitamin B complex formulation. Vitamin B12 is bound to the protein in food. It is separated from the protein by the hydrochloric acid released during the digestion process in the stomach. It then combines with a substance called intrinsic factor (IF) before being absorbed into the bloodstream.

Vitamin B12 deficiency

The human body stores several years' worth of vitamin B12, so nutritional deficiency of this vitamin is extremely rare. It is the elderly who are more at risk. The deficiency can also result from the human body's inability to absorb vitamin B12 from the intestinal tract. This is usually caused by a disease known as pernicious anemia. People practicing strict vegetarians or veganism wand not taking adequate amounts of B12 are also prone to this deficiency.

A day's supply of vitamin B12 can be obtained by

  • Eating 1 chicken breast along with 1 hard-boiled egg and 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1 cup milk and 1 cup raisin bran.
  • Vitamin B12 supplements which comes both as oral supplements and in injection form to treat a number of diseases and conditions.

Food sources of vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is found in virtually all meat products and certain algae such as seaweed. Good sources include meat, salmon, cod, milk, cheese, eggs, yeast extract, and some fortified breakfast cereals.

Vitamin B12 and health

Vitamin B12 is important for the activity of certain enzymes that control fat, amino acid and carbohydrate metabolism. Both Vitamin B12 and the vitamin folate are essential for the production of genetic material. Vitamin B12 deficiency prevents results in the formation of abnormal red blood cells to be produced that are too large, few in number and unable to carry oxygen very effectively.

Vitamin B12 deficiency may develop when

  • A person is a vegan or follows a diet free of dairy and meat products.
  • The stomach cannot produce enough intrinsic factor.
  • The intestine cannot absorb enough vitamin B12.
  • A non vegetarian person does not eat enough food containing vitamin B12.

Vitamin B12 deficiency and health problem

  • Vitamin B12 deficiency produces a condition called macrocytic anaemia.
  • It also causes irreversible damage to the nervous system.
  • Vitamin B12 deficiencies in pregnant women increases the risks of their developing child having a malformations called neural tube defect

What can I do?

  • Do not self prescribe Vitamin B12 supplement. Do consult your doctor who will advise you on dosages and any possible medical interactions.

90 degrees -- What we do not know yet

  • Vitamin B12 may protect against brain volume loss in older people, and ultimately reduce the risk of developing dementia, suggests a new study from the University of Oxford.
  • People with higher blood levels of the vitamin were six times less likely to experience brain shrinkage compared with people with lower vitamin levels, according to results published in the new issue of the journal Neurology.[1]

References

What is Vitamin B12 Deficiency?

  • Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin B12 can prevent major birth defects
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin B12 FSA
  • FSA issues strong warnings on vitamins
  • B12 deficiency