Vitamin B-12: Functions, deficiency, and sources

Vitamin B-12 is a crucial B vitamin. It is needed for nerve tissue health, brain function, and the production of red blood cells. Cobalamin is another name for vitamin B-12.

Deficiency can result when levels of vitamin B-12 are too low. This can lead to irreversible neurological symptoms. In the United States (U.S.), between 1.5 and 15 percent of the population are currently diagnosed with vitamin B-12 deficiency.

This article will explore the functions of vitamin B-12, how a person would know they are not consuming enough vitamin B-12, and where to source more.

Fast facts on vitamin B-12

Vitamin B-12 is important for brain function the synthesis of red blood cells.

Deficiency of vitamin B-12 can lead to neurological difficulties and anemia.

People over the age of 14 should consume more than 2.4 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin B-12 daily.

Vitamin B-12 is naturally available in meats, but people who do not eat meat, such as vegans, can obtain vitamin B-12 in supplement form.

What is vitamin B-12?

Vitamin B12 sources
Vitamin B-12 is vital for red blood cell production and mental processes.

Vitamin B-12 is a water-soluble vitamin, like all other B-vitamins.

This means it can dissolve in water and travel through the bloodstream. The human body can store vitamin B-12 for up to four years. Any excess or unwanted vitamin B-12 is excreted in the urine.

Vitamin B-12 is the largest and most structurally complicated vitamin. It occurs naturally in meat products and can only be industrially produced through bacterial fermentation synthesis.

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Foods

Vitamin B-12 can be found naturally in animal products, such as fish, meat, eggs, and dairy products. It does not typically occur in plant foods.

Good dietary sources of vitamin B-12 include:

beef

pork

ham

poultry

lamb

fish, especially haddock and tuna

dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt

some nutritional yeast products

eggs

Some types of soya milk and breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamin B-12.

It is always better to maintain a balanced diet and receive healthful amounts of nutrients before active treatment is required. The symptoms of deficiency are easily avoided with a healthful diet.

Benefits

Vitamin B-12 is crucial to the normal function of the brain and the nervous system. It is also involved in the formation of red blood cells and helps to create and regulate DNA.

The metabolism of every cell in the body depends on vitamin B-12, as it plays a part in the synthesis of fatty acids and energy production. Vitamin B-12 enables the release of energy by helping the human body absorb folic acid.

The human body produces millions of red blood cells every minute. These cells cannot multiply properly without vitamin B-12. The production of red blood cells reduces if vitamin B-12 levels are too low. Anemia can occur if the red blood cell count drops.

Intake requirements

In the U.S., the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend that teens and adults over the age of 14 years should consume 2.4 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin B-12 a day. Pregnant women should be sure to consume 2.6 mcg, and lactating women 2.8 mcg.

Excessive intake of vitamin B-12 has not demonstrated toxic or harmful qualities. However, people are always advised to speak with their physician before starting to take supplements.

Some medications may interact with vitamin B-12. These include metformin, proton pump inhibitors, and h2 receptor agonists, often used for peptic ulcer disease. All of these drugs may interfere with vitamin B-12 absorption. The antibiotic chloramphenicol, or chloromycetin, may also interfere with red blood cell production in people taking supplements.

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Deficiency symptoms

Vitamin B-12 deficiency occurs when the body does not receive enough vitamin B-12.

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