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Vitamin B12

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B12 for Nerve and Brain Health

Vitamin B12, also called cobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin that plays a role in healthy brain and nerve function.

It also helps make DNA; the genetic material in cells.

B12 helps prevent anemia which can make the body tired and weak.

Strict vegetarians who do not eat animal products have a greater risk of developing anemia and babies of mothers who are vegetarians are also at a higher risk.

Vitamin B12 helps keep the amino acid homocysteine at healthy levels, which can help reduce heart disease risk and promote healthy red blood cell production.

Function of Vitamin B12

  • Forming red blood cells
    • Vitamin B12 plays a key role in the development of red blood cells. As these blood cells mature they require DNA molecules to provide information.
    • Without vitamin B12 DNA synthesis becomes defective; interfering with the information needed to form red blood cells. When this happens cells begin to function ineffectively and anemia is developed.
  • Developing nerve cells
    • When Vitamin B12 is deficient, the myelin sheath (a coating which encloses the nerves) forms less successfully. Vitamin B12 supplementation promotes nervous system disorder symptom relief.
  • Additional Roles
    • Vitamin B12 deficiency can affect carbohydrate and fat metabolism in the body

Causes of B12 Deficiency

  • Pernicious anemia
  • Atrophic gastritis, thinning of the stomach lining
  • Surgery where part of the stomach or small intestine is removed
  • Conditions such as Crohn's disease or celiac disease that affect the small intestine
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Autoimmune disorders like Graves' disease or lupus
  • Weight loss surgeries

B12 Deficiency Symptoms

  • Weakness, tiredness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Dandruff
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Memory problems
  • Pale skin
  • Sore tongue
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Yellowed skin (jaundice)
  • Upset stomach and weight loss
  • Vitamin B12 deficiencies that are not corrected can lead to B12 deficiency anemia and eventually nerve cell damage. Symptoms of nerve cell damage include
    • Tingling or numbness in fingers and toes
    • Difficulty walking
    • Mood changes or depression
    • Memory loss, disorientation and dementia

Vitamin B12 Sources

  • Beef, liver, clams
  • Fish, meat
  • Poultry, eggs
  • Milk and other dairy products
  • Fortified breakfast cereals
B12 Public Health Recommendations
Life Stage Recommended Amount
0-6 months 400 nanograms
6-12 months 500 nanograms
1-3 years 900 nanograms
4-8 years 1.2 micrograms
Males 9-13 years 1.8 micrograms
Males 14 and older 2.4 micrograms
Females 9-13 years 1.8 micrograms
Females 14 and older 2.4 micrograms
Pregnant females of any age 2.6 micrograms
Lactating females of any age 2.8 micrograms

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References

Quick Facts

  • Vitamin B12 plays a role in red blood cell formation and the production of DNA
  • Your body needs B12 to maintain healthy nerve cells
  • B12 is naturally found in most animal foods, including liver, clams, fish, beef, yogurt, milk, pork, eggs and chicken
  • B12 deficiency can result in megaloblastic anemia, fatigue, weakness, weight loss, constipation and loss of appetite
  • The amount of vitamin B12 you require each day varies depending on how old your are
  • Vegetarians and older adults without sufficient levels of hydrochloric acid in their stomach to absorb the vitamin B12 from food may experience B12 deficiency
  • Vitamin B12 can be found in nearly all multivitamins