Why is Vitamin B12 Important For Your Body?Vitamin B12 (cobalamin), is naturally found in animal foods. It is also commonly found in fortified foods or supplements. Vitamin B12 is needed to form red blood cells and DNA. It is also a key player in the function and development of brain and nerve cells. Vitamin B12, together with vitamins B6 and B9, is involved in the breakdown of a protein called homocysteine. High homocysteine levels are associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke as it may promote the formation of blood clots and excess free radical cells, and may impair normal blood vessel function. A lack of adequate vitamin B12 can increase homocysteine levels.
Where do I find it?Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products and therefore it is essential for vegetarians and vegans to consume products that have been fortified with vitamin B12. The best sources include fish, shellfish, liver, and meat. Dairy products are also a great source of B12.
How much do I need?The Recommended Dietary Allowance for men and women ages 14 years and older is 2.4 micrograms (mcg) daily. For pregnant women, 2.6 µg is recommended and breastfeeding women should get at least 2.8 µg. Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, so any unused amount will exit the body through the urine. The upper intake level is 1 mg a day.
What happens if I don’t get enough vitamin B12?Most people get sufficient vitamin B12 from their diet. With age, it can become harder to absorb this vitamin. It can also happen if you have had weight loss surgery or another operation that removed part of your stomach, or if you drink heavily. You might be at higher risk of deficiency if you don’t eat animal products or if you have any of the below conditions:
- Thinned stomach lining from atrophic gastritis
- Pernicious anemia
- Anti-immune decease
- Conditions that affect your small intestines, such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, bacterial growth, or a parasite
- Immune system disorders, such as Graves’ disease or lupus
Signs of deficiency may include:
- Reduction of blood cells in the blood, which again can be of larger size than normal.
- Weakness, fatigue
- Nerve damage with numbness, tingling in the hands and legs
- Memory loss, confusion