Vitamin B12 is a very important member of the family of B-vitamins.
It is a complex, water-soluble vitamin that also contains cobalt, a metallic ion. Vitamin B12 is absorbed through the gastrointestinal system and interestingly, the liver is able to store adequate supplies of it, making deficiencies rare. However, those who have stomach problems that make absorption troublesome can end up with a deficiency even though they consume the right foods or get adequate supplies via supplementation.
Known as the energy vitamin, adequate levels of Vitamin B12 have been shown to increase alertness, reduce tiredness and leave people feeling overall invigorated.
One of the most important functions of Vitamin B12 is its ability to work together with Folic Acid in the production of DNA. Because of the way it is able to recycle certain enzymes, it plays a significant role in maintaining the proper functioning of cells, blood and nerves. An imbalance of either Vitamin B9 or B12 can negatively impact the way red blood cells divide and lead to a condition known as pernicious anemia.
Vitamin B12 also works to reduce levels of homocysteine, the amino acids that can damage artery walls and increase a person's risk of developing heart disease. Vitamin B12 is also responsible for ensuring that nerve cells function properly. It's also possible that Vitamin B12 can treat symptoms associated with a loss of calcium including osteoporosis and damage to the teeth. This vitamin may even be able to relieve some symptoms of depression.
Sources of vitamin B12
Animal liver is the best source of Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin). It is important to note that Vitamin B12 is not found in plant tissue. Those who consume a vegetarian-style diet are highly advised to supplement this all-important vitamin. Other good sources of this vitamin include liver, fish, eggs, cheese and meat. Cereals, plant milk, soy products and brewer's yeast that have been fortified with B12 are also good sources, especially for those who consume a vegetarian diet.
For adults, 3 micrograms is the required daily intake of this vitamin. However, since this vitamin has no toxic side effects, consuming more can help ensure an adequate production of red blood cells and can help prevent birth defects.
Symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency
Symptoms of a Vitamin B12 deficiency develop gradually, usually not becoming apparent for at least a year and oftentimes longer. Anemia is the first sign that the body is not getting an adequate supply of Vitamin B12.
Other symptoms of this type of deficiency include a sore tongue, trouble with memory or concentration that can result in confusion, an overall feeling of tiredness, irritability, diminished appetite, tingling, numbness, diarrhea, problems associated with poor circulation and development of a yellowish tint on the skin.
Brain damage and deterioration of the nervous system are also possible symptoms that can result from this type of deficiency. In addition, a Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause homocysteine levels to increase which puts an individual at higher risk for development of heart and/or coronary disease.