Vitamin B12 is a B-complex vitamin and one of the many vitamins that our body needs for the development of the brain, nerves, blood cells, and many other parts of the body. It is also responsible for the smooth functioning of several critical body processes.
Vitamin B12 is part of the vitamin B complex, which includes thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate and vitamin B12. Each of these vitamins has its “own unique role in the body, but most B vitamins have a role in helping your body’s cells to produce energy,” said Heather Mangieri, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
What is it and what is it good for?
Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that plays a role in the normal functioning of nerve and blood cells. It also assists in the process of making DNA, which is the genetic material found in every cell of your body. If you get enough of the vitamin, you could prevent a type of anaemia known as megaloblastic anemia, which results in tiredness and weakness. It also helps in maintaining a healthy digestive system. It also safeguards against heart disease by reducing harmful cholesterol levels and shielding against stroke and high blood pressure.
Vitamin B12 deficiencies
If you don’t get vitamin B12 in sufficient amounts, you may suffer from nerve problems such as numbness and tingling sensations in your hands and feet. The more common signs include tiredness, loss of appetite, constipation, weight loss, weakness and megaloblastic anaemia – a hallmark of a vitamin B12 deficiency. A B12 deficiency can also cause depression, confusion, dementia, memory problems and issues with balance.
Which foods contain vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is obtained in generous proportions from animal sources. Beef liver and clams are the best sources of vitamin B12. Apart from that, fish, meat and eggs, as well as milk and other dairy products also contain the vitamin. Fruits, vegetables and grains have very little amount of this nutrient. The good news is that the daily recommended allowance of Vitamin B12 is about 2.4-2.8 micro grams for adults, which can be attained from 2-3 cups of milk products or 2 eggs. Vegetarians who do not eat egg or vegans will need to have food that has been fortified with the vitamin (such as breakfast cereals and nutritional yeasts) in order to get their recommended daily dose of the vitamin. It is advisable to check the product labels to know whether the food you are consuming has been fortified with vitamin B12.
How is it assimilated in our bodies?
Vitamin B12 is absorbed in our body in a two-step process. When we eat food containing the vitamin, the hydrochloric acid in our stomachs breaks down protein in the food, to which vitamin B12 is bound. The now free vitamin B12 combines with another protein made by our stomachs, called intrinsic factor. Once the vitamin binds to intrinsic factor, our body absorbs it. People with pernicious anaemia have trouble making intrinsic factor, so they don’t absorb vitamin B12 well.
Does it interact with medication?
Vitamin B12 can have an effect or interfere with medications you may be taking. The following medications can affect your vitamin B12 levels.
- Chloramphenicol – an antibiotic used to treat infections
- Histamine H2-receptor antagonists – such as cimetidine, ranitidine and famotidine which are used for the treatment of peptic ulcers
- Proton pump inhibitors – such as omeprazole and lansoprazole used to treat acid reflux
- Metformin – a drug used by diabetics
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