What is Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient, soluble in water, that the body cannot make on its own, so it must be obtained from the diet or nutritional supplements.
The importance of vitamin B12 to the body
- Vitamin B12 is essential for maintaining healthy nerves.
- Supporting DNA production.
- Red blood cells multiply properly.
- Maintaining normal brain function.
- It plays an important role in fatty acid synthesis and energy production by helping the body absorb folic acid.
The damage that vitamin B12 deficiency can cause
- Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause irreversible damage, especially to the nervous system and brain.
- Low levels of vitamin B12 may also lead to depression, confusion, memory problems and fatigue. However, these symptoms may not only be due to a lack of vitamin B12.
- Other symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency are constipation, loss of appetite and weight loss.
- Symptoms can worsen to neurological changes such as numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, and some people may find it difficult to maintain balance.
- Infants may experience movements such as facial twitching, feeding difficulties, irritability and growth if vitamin B12 deficiency is left untreated.
- Vitamin B12, in combination with Vitamin B6 and Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), has been shown to control high levels of homocysteine in the blood. Elevated homocysteine may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, but there is no evidence that vitamin B12 supplementation prevents heart disease.
- Some people with a vitamin B12 deficiency have a higher risk of psychosis, mania, and dementia.
- It can lead to anemia. Symptoms of anemia are:
- shortness of breath.
- They may also suffer from mouth or tongue inflammation, weight loss, paleness or yellowing of the skin, diarrhea, and menstrual problems.
- Vitamin B12 deficiency leaves people more vulnerable to the effects of infection.
Who is at risk?
- Vegetarians face the risk of developing a vitamin B12 deficiency, because their diet excludes food products from animal sources. Pregnancy and breast-feeding can exacerbate vitamin B12 deficiency in vegetarians. Foods from plant sources do not contain enough cobalamin to ensure long-term health.
- People with pernicious anemia may lack vitamin B12. Pernicious anemia is an autoimmune disease that affects the blood. Patients with this disorder do not have enough intrinsic factor (IF), which is a protein in the stomach that allows the body to absorb vitamin B12.
- Other groups at risk include people with problems with the small intestine, for example, a person whose small intestine has been surgically shortened. They may not be able to absorb cobalamin properly. People with Crohn’s disease may be at risk, but evidence to confirm this is lacking.
- Gastritis, digestive disorders and inflammatory bowel diseases may lead to deficiency because these conditions cause a decrease in the absorption of nutrients.
- People who suffer from chronic alcoholism may lack vitamin B12, as their bodies are also unable to efficiently absorb nutrients.
- Individuals treating diabetes with metformin are advised to monitor their vitamin B12 levels. Metformin may reduce the absorption of vitamin B12.
Sources of vitamin B12 from food
- Vitamin B12 is found mainly in animal products such as liver and kidneys, especially organic meats such as lamb rich in vitamin B12, and lamb liver is very rich in copper, selenium and vitamins A and B, as well as beef rich in vitamin B12. In order to obtain a higher concentration of vitamin B12, it is recommended to choose low-fat cuts of meat and grill it rather than frying in order to preserve the vitamin B12 content.
- Milk and dairy products are rich in Vitamin B12. Studies have shown that the body’s absorption of vitamin B12 from milk and dairy products is better than the absorption of vitamin B12, which is found in beef, fish, or eggs.
- Oysters contain high concentrations of vitamin B12, contain a large amount of iron and are a good source of antioxidants.
- Sardine fish contains many nutrients, including vitamin B12 and an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce inflammation and improve heart health.
- Fortified cereals are a good source of vitamin B12 for vegetarians, although they are not usually recommended as part of a healthy diet. Research shows that taking fortified cereals daily helps increase vitamin B12 concentrations.
- Tuna is a good source of nutrients, including protein, vitamins and minerals and contains high concentrations of vitamin B12.
- fortified nutritional yeast is a food source rich in proteins, vitamins and minerals, but in nutritional yeast vitamin B12 is a factory (B12 can only be synthetically produced through fermentation of bacteria), so it is friendly to vegetarians as it is the case in fortified cereals because nutritional yeast helps reduce the resulting blood deficiency About vitamin B12 deficiency.
- Trout, a member of the trout family found in fresh water, is a good source of B vitamins, protein and healthy fats, as well as minerals such as manganese, phosphorous and selenium.
- Salmon is a good source of B vitamins, as it contains high concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Soy, almond and rice milk, as they contain vitamin B12, a nutritious vegetarian alternative to animal milk. For example, a cup of soy milk (240 ml) can provide 86% of the body’s need for vitamin B12 per day.
- Eggs are an excellent source of B vitamins, as well as complete proteins. You will also get a healthy amount of vitamin D. Research has shown that egg yolks contain more vitamin B12 than egg whites. They also found that vitamin B12 in egg yolks is easier to absorb.
When should you take vitamin B12 supplements?
- When people are at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, such as the elderly, pregnant and lactating women, vegetarians, those with intestinal problems or have had stomach surgery. They must take vitamin B12 supplements in many forms either by swallowing, chewing, or injection.
- Vitamin B12 supplements should be taken when the intrinsic factor necessary for efficient absorption of vitamin B12 is lacking, and this intrinsic factor is decreased commonly in the elderly, and its deficiency is usually associated with an autoimmune disease known as pernicious anemia, so they should take vitamin B12 injections for life.
- A vegetarian diet lacks vitamin B12, so vegetarians should take nutritional supplements to avoid deficiency, especially during pregnancy and breastfeeding.