What can B12 deficiency do to your health?

Vitamin B12, also called cobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin that has a key role in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system via the synthesis of myelin (myelinogenesis), and the formation of red blood cells. It is one of eight B vitamins. It is involved in the metabolism of every cell of the human body, especially affecting DNA synthesis, fatty acid and amino acid metabolism. No fungi, plants, or animals (including humans) are capable of producing vitamin B12. Only bacteria and archaea have the enzymes needed for its synthesis. Some substantial sources of B12 include animal products (shellfish, meat), fortified food products, and dietary supplements. B12 is the largest and most structurally complicated vitamin and can be produced industrially through bacterial fermentation synthesis, typically used to manufacture B12 for fortified foods and supplements. It can also be produced synthetically via vitamin B12 total synthesis.

Vitamin B12 is a powerhouse which affects various aspects of how your body functions right from how your cells are formed to how you feel every day. It provides necessary support to both the nervous and immune systems. So without sufficient Vitamin B12, your body will not have the ability to perform its job. As a result, you would not have the physical, emotional and mental energy to survive through the day.

The top 5 health benefits of vitamin B 12 are:

  • It is needed to convert carbohydrates into glucose in the body, thus leading to energy production and a decrease in fatigue and lethargy in the body.
  • It helps in healthy regulation of the nervous system, reducing depression, stress, and brain shrinkage.
  • It helps maintain a healthy digestive system. Vitamin B12 also protects against heart disease by curbing and improving unhealthy cholesterol levels, protecting against stroke, and high blood pressure.
  • It is essential for healthy skin, hair, and nails. It helps in cell reproduction and constant renewal of the skin.
  • Vitamin B 12 helps protect against cancers including breast, colon, lung, and prostate cancer.

A lack of vitamin B12 (B12 deficiency) occurs when the body does not get or is unable to absorb the amount of vitamin that the body needs.

  • Many people over age 50 lose the ability to absorb vitamin B12 from foods.
  • People who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet should try to eat vitamin B12-fortified foods or talk to their doctor about taking B12 supplements.
  • Those who have had gastrointestinal surgery, such as weight loss surgery, lose the ability to absorb vitamin B12.
  • People who have digestive disorders, such as celiac disease or Crohn’s disease, may not absorb enough vitamin B12.

Symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency can include:

  • Constantly feeling tired or chronic fatigue
  • Muscle aches and weakness
  • Joint pain
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Poor memory
  • Inability to concentrate well
  • Mood changes, like increased depression and anxiety
  • Having abnormal heart problems, such as palpitations
  • Poor dental health, including bleeding gums and mouth sores
  • Digestive problems like nausea, diarrhea or cramping
  • A poor appetite
  • A more serious deficiency can also cause a form of anemia called pernicious anemia, a serious condition that can cause memory loss, confusion and even long-term dementia

Food Sources

Vitamin B12 is found naturally in a wide variety of animal foods. Plant foods have no vitamin B12 unless they are fortified.

You can get the recommended amounts of vitamin B12 by eating a variety of the foods including:

  • Organ meats (liver)
  • Shellfish (clams)
  • Meat, poultry, eggs,milk and other dairy foods
  • Some breakfast cereals and nutritional yeasts

To find out if vitamin B12 has been added to a food product, check the nutrition fact panel on the food label.

The body absorbs animal sources of vitamin B12 much better than plant sources. Nonanimal sources of vitamin B12 vary in their amount of B12. They are not thought to be reliable sources of the vitamin.

Make sure that your body is getting enough vitamin B12 by incorporating some of these foods in your diet: liver, meat, eggs, milk, cheese and some varieties of fish.

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