Many times we hear the importance of certain substances for the body, the importance of their intake for the normal functioning of the body, but we do not really know what those substances do, what their contributions are. We want to clarify what vitamin B12 is and what it is for.

What is Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is an essential substance for the body, it is found within the eight vitamins of group B, it has a great preponderance within what is the synthesis and regulation of DNA and the metabolism of amino acids, fatty acids and carbohydrates.

What is Vitamin B12 for?

Vitamin B12 is vitally important in the proper functioning of the brain, the nervous system, the gestation of the blood and many proteins due to its role in the protein synthesis that occurs in the cell. Its discovery had to do with research on the causes of anemia that revealed its intimate relationship with the deficiency of this vitamin.

It is acquired from the intake of foods of animal origin such as beef liver, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products and derivatives thereof. Its deficiency in the body can cause: anemia, loss of balance, numbness in extremities and weakness.

Information on Vitamin B12

You often hear about vitamin B12, mainly associated with diets that totally or partially exclude animal-like foods, such as vegetarian or vegan foods. But what is vitamin B12 and what are the possible consequences of a deficiency of this substance in the body?

Our body needs a small amount of vitamin B12 (between 2 and 3 mcg per day), but that is really essential, a deficiency can, in the long term, and if underestimated, cause serious damage. The problem arises from the fact that our body cannot synthesize this substance alone, but it must necessarily take it with food.

B12 is also known as Cobalamin because in its composition there is a cobalt atom in the center and it is part of the water-soluble vitamins that dissolve in water.
Vitamin B12, what is it for?

Vitamin B12 is essential for the formation of red blood cells that promote growth. She works in synergy with folic acid in the synthesis of DNA and RNA, helping in the formation of white blood cells that defend our body from infectious microorganisms.

B12 also contributes to the good health of the nervous system by intervening in the creation of the myelin sheath that envelops the nerves. The action it has on the metabolism of homocysteine ​​is also essential for health, which helps to keep it at the proper levels, preventing too much cholesterol from being deposited in the blood vessels.

What foods is Vitamin B12 in?

The foods in which vitamin B12 is present are mainly meat, fish, eggs, milk and dairy products, because the foods that are given to animals are often supplemented with this substance. Plants could contain B12, since this vitamin is synthesized by bacteria present in the soil. But we usually use it to clean fruits and vegetables before we eat it, so although originally there were traces of B12, with washing we can no longer tell you about its presence. This is the only element that is not reliably present in a completely plant-based diet.

It is no coincidence, therefore, that especially for vegans it is recommended to take vitamin B12 supplements or at least use fortified foods daily to meet daily requirements.
Fortified foods, in which this vitamin has been specially added, are, for example, some breakfast cereals or types of plant milk. These products are labeled with the presence and amount of B12 added.

Consequences of vitamin B12 deficiency

A deficiency in vitamin B12 can cause serious damage to the nervous system and an increase in the blood of homocysteine, an amino acid that has been linked to the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, tumors and dementia. Also, a lack of vitamin B12 can lead to anemia if, at the same time, you have low levels of folic acid (another B vitamin in the group).

In particular, poor vitamin B12 in the blood can lead to the development of a form of megaloblastic or pernicious anemia that is considered very dangerous. Especially in children, the deficiency of this vitamin should not be underestimated, as it can cause permanent neurological damage.

However, it must be said that, except in the case of young children, before reaching a real B12 deficiency, it takes several years since our body has the ability to store its reserves in the liver. Therefore, it is helpful all the time to act at the first notice of a possible shortage.

The first symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiencies are tiredness, weakness, nervousness, memory loss, and loss of attention, all of which can easily be mistaken for other problems. That is why it is essential to assess vitamin B12 levels through specific blood tests that determine the actual reserves of this substance in the body.
High and low vitamin B12

Blood tests can result in low or high levels of vitamin B12. The first case is surely more frequent and not only if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. Even many omnivores, often unknowingly, do not have large body stores of this vitamin because in some cases it is not so much a problem of absorption or absorption.

B12 deficiencies can be due to two cases: poor consumption with diet or difficulty in absorbing. In the first case, it is easy to act with the appropriate supplements, while in the second case you must go for the cause. Often the problem is due to a lack of intrinsic factor, a glycoprotein produced by the stomach essential for the absorption of B12. There are also pathologies or medications that inhibit the absorption of this vitamin and even advancing with age is a possible risk factor for vitamin B12 deficiency.

High levels of B12 have been seen to be among the causes of acne, but an excess of this vitamin is particularly damaging in particular to the kidneys. However, it is really difficult to reach the harmful levels of this substance with exclusive nutrition, but if that happens, it is always better to turn to your trusted doctor to better investigate the causes of this condition.

Samantha Robson
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Dr. Samantha Robson ( CRN: 0510146-5) is a nutritionist and website content reviewer related to her area of ​​expertise. With a postgraduate degree in Nutrition from The University of Arizona, she is a specialist in Sports Nutrition from Oxford University and is also a member of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

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