Why is vitamin B12 so important?

Why is vitamin B12 so important?

Vitamin B12 comes from the B group of vitamins. Unlike most other vitamins, however, it can neither be produced in, or stored by your body, and therefore can only be absorbed through certain types of food, or health supplements. Vitamin B12 is an important nutritional requirement for the body as it aids in the production of red blood cells, protects the nerves from damage and ensures structural stability of certain chromosome regions, apart from being able to also carry out other bodily functions. The human body is capable of producing millions of red blood cells every minute. However, this process can only be made possible if there is an adequate supply of vitamin B12 to carry oxygen throughout the body. Contrastingly, a lack of vitamin B12 can lead to physical and psychological problems in the body such as impaired vision, mouth ulcers, irritability and depression.

Important facts to know about Vitamin B12

Given the fact that vitamin B12 cannot be stored by your body, it therefore needs to be provided on a daily basis through certain types of food, or a health supplement. For example, adults between the age of 19 – 64 need approximately 1.5 microgram (mcg) of vitamin B12 per day. Food products that double up as natural sources of vitamin B12 include fish, meat, eggs and dairy products.
* Vitamin B12 is water-soluble and can travel through the bloodstream.

Frequent consumption of these food products can ensure that your body absorbs an adequate amount of vitamin B12 for your everyday needs. This, however, can be a problem for both vegetarians and vegans alike, as their consumption of plant-based food products prevent them from supplementing their bodies with vitamin B12 (which is primarily available through animal-based foods). Fortunately, a number of refined vegetarian and vegan food options which contain vitamin B12 are available. These include fortified cereals, plant milks, bread and nutritional yeast. As an alternative, you can also choose to supplement your body with a combination of vitamins that includes vitamin B12 and minerals as well as other essential nutrients required for healthy body function.

How vitamin B12 can support our health

Vitamin B12 (also known as cobalamin), like all other B vitamins, is also water - soluble1. However, this vitamin is not naturally stored, but instead absorbed by our bodies through the consumption of a variety of foods1,2. For instance, foods such as red meat, fish, eggs, fortified breakfast cereals and dairy products1,2. Vitamin B12 is essential for a number of processes in the human body. These include:

1. Producing red blood cells

Our body’s ability to produce millions of red blood cells every minute is largely in part, thanks to an adequate intake of vitamin B12, which promotes a healthy multiplication of these cells3.

2. Encouraging DNA production

Vitamin B12 works in concert with another B vitamin called vitamin B9 (also known as folic acid) to make purines and pyrimidines in your body1. Purines and pyrimidines are nitrogenous bases that make up the building blocks of DNA in the human body4.

Foods that are great sources of vitamin B12 include:

Beef steak icon

Red meat: beef, lamb

Fish icon

Fish: mackerel, salmon, tuna

Bottle of milk and piece of cheese icon

Dairy: milk, cheese, yogurt

3. Promoting homocysteine metabolism

Vitamin B12 also combines effectively with folic acid to regulate the levels of homocysteine - a type of sulfur-containing amino acid - in the blood5. This is because increased levels of homocysteine in the blood have been associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD)2,5. However, current data does not show that a supplementation of vitamin B12 is also able to decrease an individual’s risk of developing CVD5.

Young couple running with surfboards
Quote – Vitamin B12 deficiency can affect between 1.5 and 15 percent of people

4. Preserving the myelin sheath

An adequate intake of vitamin B12 ensures that the myelin sheath which protects the nerves stays intact1. This action, in turn, prevents the body from suffering nerve damage (also called neuropathy), which causes numbness and an uncomfortable feeling in your skin1.

Most people are able to supplement their bodies with an adequate amount of vitamin B12 through a healthy and balanced diet. However, for people who have problems with absorbing vitamin B12 effectively, supplements in the form of tablets or injections are recommended. For example, a health supplement that contains a healthy dose of B group vitamins (10µg of Vitamin B12), which can effectively supply your body with whichever B vitamin that it is currently lacking.

Data from:
https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=19&contentid=vitaminb-12
https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-B12
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/219822#benefits
https://www.albert.io/blog/what-is-the-difference-between-purines-and-pyrimidines/
https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/

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