What is Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is an essential nutrient that is a member of the B-complex vitamins. B12 is the largest and most structurally complex of all known vitamins. There are several forms of vitamin B12, all of which are termed “cobalamins” because they contain the trace mineral cobalt in their nucleus structure. Some forms of B12 are not immediately bioavailable and your body must use enzymes to convert them to a usable form. However, methylcobalamin and hydroxocobalamin (5-deoxyadenosylcobalamin) forms are highly bioavailable.

Where Can You Get Vitamin B12?

Your body doesn’t make vitamin B12; you need to get it through your diet or by supplementation. It’s found mostly in foods of animal origin such as meat, fish, and eggs. Even though only bacteria and archaea can synthesize B12, animals integrate B12 into their tissues via bacterial symbiosis, which is why animal foods are naturally the richest source of B12. Fortified foods and supplements are also common sources of the nutrient.

Why You Need Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 plays an important role in a number of ways. The body functions that rely on adequate B12 include:

  • Brain and nervous system health via myelin sheath function

  • DNA synthesis

  • Red blood cell formation

  • Healthy cell metabolism (of nearly every cell in your body)

  • Cardiovascular health

Individuals with the MTHFR gene mutation may be at a higher risk for elevated homocysteine levels. When homocysteine levels are higher than normal, osteoporosis, blood clots, and atherosclerosis are common symptoms. Dietary intervention via vitamin B12 supplementation (as well as folate and B6) is necessary for bringing homocysteine levels back into balance.

 

How Much Vitamin B12 Do You Need?

Scientific health bodies set daily recommendations of vitamin B12 for normal adults at 2.4 mcg/day, with up to 3 mcg/day for pregnant and lactating women. Keep in mind these numbers are absolute minimums. Research suggests that average vitamin B12 intake among the population is 3.4 mcg/day, above the adequate recommended daily intake. Regardless, due to digestion and absorption issues, disease status, and prescription medication interference, some data suggests a sizable number of the population is B12 deficient. The typical human body can absorb up to 1.5 mcg of vitamin B12 from food, but supplementation has been shown to allow for higher absorption rates by bypassing the digestive process. Although some will tell you that humans store between 2 to 5 mg of vitamin B12 (mostly in the liver), which can last up to five years in the absence of daily intake.

Are You Vitamin B12 Sufficient or Deficient?

Despite a healthy and balanced diet, physiological (genetics, disease) and environmental (medications for diabetes, indigestion etc.) factors can interfere with normal B12 absorption for many people, leading to depletion or deficiency.

Blood level testing is the surest diagnostic method to assess if you are B12 deficient.

Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Below are just some of the symptoms of low levels and deficiency of this vitamin.

  • Pernicious anemia

  • Neurological impairments such as depression, confusion, disorientation, schizophrenia, ADHD

  • Memory loss, Alzheimer’s/dementia, Parkinson’s, brain fog, cognitive decline, brain shrinkage

  • Peripheral neuropathy

  • Bowel/urinary tract incontinence

  • Paresthesia (tingling in the limbs)

  • Loss of balance

  • Alzheimer’s, dementia, cognitive decline and memory loss

  • Multiple sclerosis (MS) and other neurological disorders

  • Mental illness (depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, psychosis)

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • Learning or developmental disorders in kids

  • Autism spectrum disorder

  • Autoimmune disease and immune suppression

  • Male and female infertility

Who shouldn’t Have B12 Injections?

If you have the inherited genetic eye condition Leber’s Disease, if you are pregnant or have a known allergy to cobalin.

Bottom line considering what we know about vitamin B12 and its importance for our health, the simplest and least expensive insurance against vitamin B12 deficiency is supplementation. It’s possible to get enough via diet, but it’s difficult and requires a healthy amount of consistency. A B12 injection is another solution preferred by many, priced at only £29 at Skin 1st.

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