B12 is an important water soluble vitamin, which is essential for optimal functioning of brain, digestive, nervous cardiovascular and immune systems. Besides, improving your energy levels, memory and mood, B12 helps in maintaining good health of your skin, hair and eyes.
Chemically, B12 is made of many related compounds and some cobalt, therefore it is also called as Cobalamin. B12 is involved in various vital bodily processes such as metabolism; adrenal function; DNA, RNA and neurotransmitters production; fatty acids synthesis and hormonal balance. Like other B vitamins, B12 also helps in converting food into energy and maintaining health of liver, skin, hair and eyes. It supports health of nerve cells and normal neurological function by manufacturing myelin, the insulating material that speeds up neural transmission. It also helps in producing red blood cells and a compound called S-adenosyl-methionine (SAMe), which is required for optimal immune function.
Importance of B12. Why we need it?
Deficiency or lack of B12 can cause chronic fatigue; weakness; muscle aches; joint pain; rapid heartbeat; shortness of breath; numbness or tingling in the arms and legs; loss of balance; soreness of mouth or tongue; constipation; diarrhea; loss of appetite; weight loss; nervousness; brain fog; depression; dementia; pernicious anaemia; and megaloblastic anaemia. Many a times, B12 deficiency occurs without any symptoms, so early detection of B12 deficiency is essential to prevent the irreversible damage to brain and nervous system.
B12 deficiency either occurs due to insufficiency in the diet or inability of your body to absorb it from the food. It is synthesized by bacteria and naturally found in animal products. Thus, people who follow vegetarian or vegan diets are at risk. Also, after digestion to get into the bloodstream B12 needs a protein called intrinsic factor, which is produced by stomach. Often, interference in production of intrinsic factor causes poor absorption of B12 in people who are over 50 yrs; on antibiotic medications for long, had gastrointestinal or bariatric surgery; are suffering from pernicious anaemia, digestive disorders (gastritis, celiac or Crohn disease), pancreatic disease, diabetes and Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori) infection, smokers and alcoholics.
Sources of B12 to Keep You Healthy
To get recommended amounts of vitamin B12, you can eat a wide variety of animal foods such as meat (beef, lamb, chicken), sea food, poultry, eggs, milk and other dairy foods. Also, fortified breakfast cereals and other food products, nutritional yeasts and sea vegetables are sources of this vitamin.
You can also take it in supplement form; however it is better absorbed and able to carry out its functions effectively, when taken with other B vitamins, such as thiamine, niacin, riboflavin and biotin. So, consider taking a vitamin B complex supplement for best results. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin B12 varies with age and conditions like pregnancy and lactation in women, illness and surgery. Adolescent and adult males and females (aged >14 yrs) in general need 2.4 mcg of B12 per day. For adults over 50 years, a daily B12 supplement, preferably in sublingual (under the tongue) tablet or oral spray forms, which are absorbed by the blood vessels in the mouth, are better to overcome the problem of mal-absorption and maintain the recommended levels of vitamin B12.
Health Benefits of B12
- Boosts Energy: B12 vitamin helps in metabolism and energy production, therefore people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome might benefit from B12 supplementation. Also, fatigue is one of the common symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, so its supplementation might help in relieving weakness and muscle aches.
- Prevents Heart Disease: People with high levels of homocysteine amino acid are more prone to develop a variety of atherogenic processes that increase the risk of coronary artery disease. B12 vitamin, along with B9 and B6 helps in maintaining normal homocysteine levels to support heart and circulatory health.Also, vitamin B12 deficiency leads to macrocytosis i.e. the enlargement of red blood cells, which is associated with increased risk of coronary disease, myocardial infarction, stroke, and other circulatory health problems. Therefore, if you are at risk of heart disease, try to get your daily dose of B vitamins from foods or supplement with B complex.
- Maintains Vision: B12 vitamin is essential for maintaining good health of eyes. In a 2009 study, a combination of vitamin B12 (1 mg/d) with folic acid (2.5 mg/d) and vitamin B6 (50 mg/d) is found helpful in reducing the risk of AMD, a leading cause of severe irreversible vision loss in older people.
- Improves Cognitive Function: B12 helps in maintaining nerve health and cognitive function. Therefore, poor vitamin B12 status are found associated with increased risk of various neurologic and psychiatric disturbances such as impaired brain function, depression, poor memory, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia among older adults.
- Support Pregnancy: B12 is essential for maternal health as well as optimal growth and development of foetus during gestation. The important role B12 plays in healthy neurological development and function makes B12 supplementation essential during pregnancy for reducing the incidence of neural tube defects in the offspring.
- Delays Aging: Vitamin B12 is required for the synthesis of DNA i.e. the genetic material in all cells and cell reproduction. This is the reason, B12 is essential for maintaining healthy glowing skin, shining hair and strong nails. It’s deficiency can lead to lack of new, healthy cells and might show effects of aging. How Dancing Can Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
- Elevates Mood: B12 is essential for maintaining healthy neurological function and mood regulation. It helps in dealing with stress and therefore found associated with reduced risk of mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.
- Aids Digestion: B12 helps in production of digestive enzymes and is essential for healthy metabolism. It has been found beneficial in preventing digestive disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBS) and Candida by fostering healthy flora in the gut.
- Boosts Immunity: B12 has a role in reducing chronic stress and inflammation, which besides supporting healthy immune function, helps in preventing chronic inflammatory disease like cancer.
Precaution: There are chances of interactions of B12 supplementation with other medications, so before taking supplements seek advice of your health care provider.