Vitamin B12 is an essential water-soluble vitamin commonly found in foods such as fish, meat, and dairy products. Vitamin B12 helps maintain healthy nerve cells and red blood cells; it is needed to make DNA. This vitamin also maintains the central nervous system and regulates the metabolism. Vitamin B12 is bound to the protein in food; hydrochloric acid in the stomach releases the vitamin from the protein during digestion. After being released, vitamin B12 combines with a substance called intrinsic factor. This complex can then be absorbed by the intestinal tract. The human body stores several years’ worth of vitamin B12 making deficiency very rare. Deficiency can result from the inability to absorb vitamin B12 from the intestinal tract which can be caused by a disease called pernicious anemia. Pernicious anemia occurs from a lack of intrinsic factor, the treatment for this is a lifelong supplement of B12 given by mouth, intramuscularly, or intranasal. Deficiency can also occur in vegetarians that do not eat any animal products and also in the elderly. Symptoms of deficiency include fatigue, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite, and can lead to numbness in the hands and feet.
A day’s supply of vitamin B12 can be obtained by eating one chicken breast and one hard-boiled egg, or one cup milk and one cup raisin bran. Fortified cereals are a great source of vitamin B12 for vegetarians or those that do not consume any animal products. For most people over 14 years of age the recommended daily allowance is 2.4 milligrams, 2.6 milligrams for pregnant women, and 2.8 milligrams for lactating women. Elderly people will greatly benefit from taking a vitamin B12 supplement daily.
Some benefits of vitamin B12 include normal vision and the increased prevention of cataracts. Adequate amounts of B12 help protect the lens of the eye, therefore decreasing the chances of getting cataracts. Vitamin B12 helps keep atherosclerosis away, which is a condition caused by the blocked formation of homocysteine. Excessive homocysteine levels can cause stroke, heart disease, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer’s disease. Experts have found when mental symptoms are treated with B12 within six months of onset, many symptoms are gone or mental clarity has drastically improved, even for those with Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin B12 is great for increasing energy levels, alertness, and combating fatigue. In the elderly, the intake of B12 increases the level of serotonin levels which is the “feel good” hormone that gives you a sense of well being which reduces depression. Numerous studies have concluded that vitamin B12 can drastically increase the sperm level in men that have a low sperm count. B12 also plays a role in melatonin production which is the hormone responsible for helping people sleep through the night. As we age our body does not produce melatonin as easily, but taking a vitamin B12 supplement will help some older adults sleep better. Children who have asthma can also benefit from an oral supplement of 1 to 3 mcg of vitamin B12.
Luckily it is very easy for most people to get their daily recommended amount of B12. Vitamin B12 is found in most animal products including milk, eggs, cheese, yogurt, fish, and meats, for the vegetarians that do not touch any of that, you can find vitamin B12 in fortified cereals and to be on the safe side when you are elderly take a vitamin B12 supplement, who wants to take the chance of losing mental clarity when you get older? Vitamin B12 has very low chances of toxicity, so it would be hard to take too much vitamin B12, so perhaps if you are going through a rough patch of not sleeping, try a B12 supplement.
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