Everything You Need to Know About Vitamin B12
What is Vitamin B12?
itamin B12, is an often overlooked nutrient, and low levels may go unnoticed due to a lack of knowledge.
In this article, we explain how boosting your vitamin B12 levels can help you feel energized and achieve peak health.
Vitamin B12 – also known as cobalamin – is an essential micronutrient in the human body that's one of the B-complex vitamins. It plays key roles in DNA synthesis, oxygen transportation, energy production, and nervous system function.
Unlike the other B vitamins, some Vitamin B12 is stored in the liver. Plus, a small amount of B12 is synthesized by the bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. However, this is not nearly enough to meet your daily requirements. It's vital that you regularly replenish levels of B12 from diet and/or supplementation.
Dietary Sources of B12
Vitamin B12 is obtained from animal products such as dairy products, eggs, liver, red meat, poultry, and seafood. A small amount may also be found in fermented soybean products like tempeh.
How Vitamin B12 Works
Vitamin B12 is essential for regulating a variety of metabolic and physiological processes.
Vitamin B12 is necessary for the production of SAM-e (or S-adenosylmethionine), a methyl group donor used in methylation reactions in the body (2). It helps to synthesize DNA and RNA. These are important nucleic acids that carry the genetics of each living cell and pass on this blueprint each time a cell divides.
B12's role in methylation ensures the proper development and function of the nervous system by assisting with the production of the myelin sheath (3). This is a covering that protects nerve fibers and ensures rapid nerve transmission so you can respond to stimuli quickly.
Risk Factors for a Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Many adults are living with sub-optimal B12 levels since this vitamin is found primarily in animal products. In addition to vegans and vegetarians, people with low hydrochloric acid levels in the stomach are at risk for B12 deficiency as they have trouble absorbing B12. This often affects people over the age of 50 as stomach acid levels decline with aging (1). Digestive disorders, smoking, excess alcohol consumption, and certain medications also increase the risk of B12 deficiency.
Some of the symptoms of low B12 include:
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Numbness and tingling of the extremities
- Poor concentration
Fortunately, B12 supplements are widely available to correct deficiencies.
Health Benefits of Vitamin B12
Here are some evidence-based health benefits of consuming vitamin B12.
Supports Healthy Blood Cell Formation
Vitamin B12 is involved in the formation of healthy red blood cells needed to transport oxygen to every cell, tissue, and organ in your body.
Without sufficient B12, you may develop megaloblastic anemia, a condition that causes malformed red blood cells (4). This results in exhaustion and weakness as your cells are deprived of the oxygen necessary to produce energy and function optimally.
As is the case with all the B complex vitamins, B12 is involved in converting dietary fats and proteins into usable energy in the mitochondria of the cell.
By ensuring your cells produce energy efficiently you'll have more capacity to perform mental and physical tasks optimally.
Promotes Cognitive Function
Its role in the development and function of the nervous system makes vitamin B12 a key nutrient for cognitive health.
Even moderately suboptimal levels are associated with poor cognitive function and the development of neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease (5, 6).
B12 is an important mood-boosting nutrient, and a deficiency significantly increases your chances of suffering from depression.
It's essential for the synthesis and metabolism of neurotransmitters in the brain – like serotonin and dopamine. Healthy levels of these "feel good" neurotransmitters balance brain health and promote feelings of happiness and motivation.
Research has shown that depressed patients respond well when conventional medication is combined with vitamin B12 supplementation (7).
Supports Heart Health
If you have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, it's important to optimize your vitamin B12 status via diet and supplementation.
Vitamin B12 reduces levels of an inflammatory protein called homocysteine. This is promising because elevated levels of homocysteine in the bloodstream have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease (8).
Make Vitamin B12 Part of Your Daily Diet
Okay you knew it was coming... time for a shameless plug. Do you think the benefits of adding vitamin B12 to your daily diet could help? Create a personalized daily vitamin pack that includes vitamin B12 and any other vitamins, minerals or supplements you think could help. Start by adding vitamin B12 to your Kit here!