B12

What is Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12, one of the eight B vitamins, also called cobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin that is involved in the metabolism of every cell of the human body and it plays a key role in the brain’s normal functioning, the nervous system, and the formation of blood. This vitamin is the biggest and most internally complex vitamin because bacterial fermentation-synthesis is the only process that can mechanically produce it.

What does B12 do?

As earlier stated; Vitamin B12 primarily supports the accurate functioning of the nervous system as well as the brain, and the blood’s production. More specifically, when it relates to the nervous system and the brain, B12 is responsible for optimal function of various aspects of the brain and nervous system, and consuming the vitamin supports memory and other cognitive functions. When it relates to blood, the vitamin B12 is a vital component in the hemoglobin production because it carries oxygen to your cells through your blood. In addition to being beneficial for overall health, the process that B12 assists in is important for properly maintaining levels of energy because low hemoglobin levels often lead to fatigue.

Where can B12 be found?

The most prevalent sources of vitamin B12 are animal products. Nearly all types of meat have vitamin B12, just as milk and eggs do. The most prominent sources of the vitamin are more likely to be the internal organ meats such as the giblets and the liver; next are the shellfish and other fish; after which, milk, other types of meat, eggs, and poultry. However, taking into account that a person only needs a small amount in a proper diet, consuming any animal product on a regular, would suffice.

What happens when someone is B12 deficient?

Though a Vitamin B12 deficiency is very rare, one can suffer from a metabolic disorder in which the body is unable to properly absorb the vitamin. However, a B12 deficiency is most commonly caused by lack of consumption of animal products, which is most common in vegetarians and especially vegans. Common symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency include but are not limited to: a weakened memory, a decrease in cognitive function, depression, chronic fatigue, and rapid exhaustion from exercising, irritability, anxiety, digestive problems like appetite loss and constipation, and a tingling or numbing feeling in certain body parts. More than the common symptoms listed, a B12 deficiency has also been shown to increase risks for a wide variety of other diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, stroke, Parkinson’s, hypertension, and many other genetic diseases because of the vitamin’s influence on the brain, the blood and the nervous system.

Helpful food sources, supplements and additional benefits of B12

Because the best natural sources of B12 are animal products and because vitamin B12 is so internally complex, it is extremely difficult to recreate industrially. Therefore, Vitamin B12 supplements can only be produced through a process called: bacterial fermentation, to gain vitamin B12 from plants. Nevertheless, B12 supplements are widely available and many foods have vitamin B12 artificially added to them, especially those targeted at people who avoid certain animal products.

 

AIs (Adequate Intakes)

Infants
0-6 months
7-12 months
Micrograms per Day
0.4
0.5

RDAs (Recommended Dietary Allowances)

People older than 50 years should meet their RDA by consuming mainly foods fortified with vitamin B12, because 10-30% of these people malabsorb foodbound vitamin B12.

Children
1-3 years
4-8 years

0.9
1.2
Males
9-13 years
14-18 years
19-30 years
31-50 years
50-70 years
> 70 years

1.8
2.4
2.4
2.4
2.4
2.4
Females
9-13 years
14-18 years
19-30 years
31-50 years
50-70 years
> 70 years

1.8
2.4
2.4
2.4
2.4
2.4
Pregnancy
< 19 years
19-30 years
31-50 years

2.6
2.6
2.6
Lactation
< 19 years
19-30 years
31-50 years

2.8
2.8
2.8

Source: USDA Dietary Reference Intakes