We do not make Vitamin B12 ourselves, therefore we have to get it from food and plays an important role in the creation of DNA. When we don’t have enough vitamin B12, our red blood cells cannot form properly so taking B12-fortified food and supplements are recommended.
What is B12
B12 is a nutrient that contains cobalt and compounds that are called cobalamins. It is one of the eight B vitamins, and it is the most complex one. We do not make it ourselves, therefore we have to get it from food. Vitamin B12 is produced by a certain bacteria in the soil. The substance binds to grass which ends up in the stomach of animals. The production of the vitamin continues in the animal’s stomach which is how this essential vitamin ends up in the human diet. Our daily needs for vitamin B12 is 2.0 μg. Individuals older than 50 have problems with absorbing this nutrient, so vitamin B12 supplements are recommended.
It is Water Soluble
Vitamin B12 is water soluble. Therefore, we need to replenish the B12 in our body each day because it does not remain like fat-soluble vitamins. However, we do store some amounts of it in the liver where it can stay for years. After we use B12, the leftovers are excreted through urine.
It is Necessary for Red Blood Cell Formation and Helps Make DNA
B12 helps in red blood cells formation along with folate and iron. The role of vitamin B12 is to enable cell differentiation during the erythropoiesis (red blood cells production) process.
If we do not ingest a recommended daily dose of the vitamin, it can cause the improper formation of erythrocytes. Vitamin B12 also partakes in DNA synthesis as a part of methylcobalamin. Along, with the enzyme methionine synthase, it plays an important role in the creation of DNA.
Supports Brain Function
Vitamin B12 plays a vital role in brain and nerve development. It is also essential for the function of the myelin sheath that protects nerve cells. The studies have shown that B12 reduces the loss of brain volume, which is one of the markers of aging. Therefore, a proper supplementation may be a good prevention method. Also, B12 is prescribed to the elderly to reduce the risks of Alzheimer’s disease.
Prevents Megaloblastic Anemia
When we don’t have enough vitamin B12, our red blood cells cannot form properly. They become larger and oval which makes them harder to leave the bone marrow and enter the bloodstream. This condition is called megaloblastic anemia, and it causes symptoms such as weakness and fatigue because red blood cells are in charge of transporting oxygen to our muscles and organs.
Some of the signs and symptoms of megaloblastic anemia include:
- Shortness of breath
- Irregular heartbeat
- Sore mouth
- Weight loss
- Stomach problems
- Irregular periods
You can get B12 from These Foods
As mentioned, certain bacteria and archaea produce vitamin B12 which then ends up in plants and animal guts. Even though the bacteria in our stomach continues to produce this nutrient, we cannot absorb it once it leaves our small intestine.
Animals store vitamin B12 in their kidney and liver, and can also be found in eggs and milk which makes these foods are one of the best sources of this substance.
Other sources of vitamin B12 include:
- Various types of seafood
Vegans have to be particularly careful because they can easily suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency. Therefore, the intake of supplements and B12-fortified food is essential.
It is Possible to be Deficient in B12
In order to diagnose vitamin B12 deficiency, your doctor will have to run some blood tests.
People who do not have enough stomach acid have issues with the absorption of this vitamin, as well as individuals older than 50. Therefore, taking B12-fortified food and supplements are recommended.
Sufferers of pernicious anemia also have problems with absorbing the B12 vitamin. The treatment includes B12 shots or high oral doses.
Other conditions that cause vitamin B12 deficiency include:
- Celiac disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Gastrointestinal surgery
Some of the signs and symptoms that your body does not get enough of vitamin B12 are:
- Megaloblastic anemia
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
- Cognitive problems
To Help, You can Have Fortified Foods or Supplements
Some of the most commonly used vitamin B12-fortified foods are breakfast cereals, yeast (not all of them, you should read the label before making any purchases), meat substitutes, and non-dairy milk which is convenient for vegans. Also, it is important to rely on uncooked sources of vitamin B12 because it might get destroyed when cooked on high temperatures.
Another source of vitamin B12 is through multivitamin supplements. However, they do not contain enough of it, especially if you are vegan. The good thing is that almost every multivitamin includes B12. It also comes in sublingual form. When prescribed, it can be taken as a pill, nasal gel, or administered as a shot.
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The Bottom Line
Keeping a healthy diet and lifestyle will ensure you aren’t deficient in vitamin B12. Include nuts, lean meat, eggs, and tempeh in your everyday diet. If you are vegan, focus on vegetables and seaweed. However, you will probably have to take B12-fortified foods and supplements. Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to fatigue, weakness, weight loss, anemia, and cognitive impairment, so it is imperative you avoid a B12 deficiency.