Vitamin B12 is an extremely important nutrient that can help to support high levels of energy, mental clarity and emotional stability. It is also associated with lower homocysteine levels, which can actually lessen the risk of heart disease. Vitamin B12 is actually the largest of all the vitamins and, indeed, the most complex. It contains a metal ion known as cobalt, often referred to as cobalamin, which makes it very unique. Vitamin B12 is synthesised by bacteria and can be found mostly in meat, eggs and dairy products. There have, additionally, been numerous scientific studies into plant sources of vitamin B12. It is known to be present in fermented soya products, seaweeds and certain algae, but these are not typically considered a safe source of food for humans and should definitely not be relied upon.
One of the most important benefits of vitamin B12 is that it is absolutely necessary for the synthesis of red blood cells. It is also critical for the maintenance of the nervous system, and in the growth and development of children. Anyone who has a deficiency of vitamin B12 may suffer from anaemia or vitamin B12 neuropathy, which is known to cause irreversible damage to nerve fibres.
Some of the best sources of vitamin B12 can be found in meat, liver, kidney, fish, milk, eggs and cheese. The liver is where you will find vitamin B12 is mainly stored and it can contain up to 2 mg. There will additionally be another 2 mg of vitamin B12 found elsewhere in the body. Some of the best sources of vitamin B12 for a vegetarian will be dairy products. Full fat or semi skimmed milk, vegetarian cheddar cheese and boiled eggs are all known to contain high levels of vitamin B12. However, you should be aware that by boiling milk you will destroy the majority of the B12 and unfortunately the fermentation that is used to manufacture yoghurt will, once again, destroy much of the B12.
The main benefits of vitamin B12 are the formation and the maturation of red blood cells. Vitamin B12 is also vital for the rapid synthesis of DNA which will mainly occur during cell division. This is especially essential in bone marrow tissues, which are mainly responsible for the formation of red blood cells. You will actually find that DNA production may be interrupted and abnormal cells known as megaloblasts will occur in somebody who has a vitamin B12 deficiency. The main symptoms of this will be breathlessness, extreme fatigue and a poor resistance to infection. Additional symptoms can include mental disorders and often a smooth and sore tongue. If a vitamin B12 deficiency is combined with a folic acid deficiency, you may become anaemic. Vitamin B12 is known to increase the white cell count and the platelets in the bone marrow.
Lipids that are formed from carbohydrates are most often influenced by vitamin B12. If you are suffering with hypoglycaemia that has come about because of a vitamin B12 deficiency, this can simply be corrected by administering more vitamin B12. It can also be particularly useful in premature babies. It will aid the absorption of metabolic products that are formed in the gastric mucous membrane. As mentioned, vitamin B12 is also essential for the functioning of the myelinated fibres of the central nervous system and the majority of the peripheral nerves. The daily requirement of vitamin B12 is extremely small and will vary in different people. As a normal adult you should aim to take 1 mcg per day, during pregnancy and lactation you should take 1.5 mcg of vitamin B12 on a daily basis, and infants and children require approximately 0.2 mcg.
By combining vitamin B12 with vitamins B6 and folic acid you may be able to control the risk of stroke, coronary heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and osteoporosis. A deficiency of vitamin B12 can also lead to diarrhoea, abdominal pain, excessive flatulence, constipation and a burning sensation on the tongue. It has even been associated with anorexia, weight loss, and age-related hearing loss.
You will typically find that the body actually stores and ample reserves of B12 in the liver, although young children and babies may not have had enough time to stockpile the vitamin. Any senior citizens that have undergone digestive tract surgery are known to be at risk of a vitamin B12 deficiency. Potentially, those most at risk of a vitamin B12 deficiency are people who do not consume meat and dairy products. However, it is important to realise that even if you are getting enough vitamin B12 through your diet, your body may still not be using it correctly. In fact up to 30% of adults are known to suffer with atrophic gastritis which is known to decrease the overall absorption rate of vitamin B12. This is the reason that the use of vitamin B12 supplements is becoming far more popular. The various forms of supplements include vitamin B12 injections and a vitamin B12 patch.