Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is an essential water-soluble vitamin that plays a crucial role in various bodily functions. It is one of the eight B-vitamins and is unique among them due to its complex structure containing a cobalt ion at its core.
Functions of Vitamin B12:
1) DNA synthesis: Vitamin B12 is required for the synthesis of DNA, which is essential for the production of new cells and maintaining proper cell function.
2) Red blood cell formation: It plays a key role in the maturation of red blood cells in the bone marrow, aiding in the prevention of a type of anemia called megaloblastic anemia, where red blood cells become larger than normal and inefficient.
3) Nervous system support: Vitamin B12 is involved in the formation of the protective myelin sheath around nerves, ensuring proper nerve transmission and overall neurological health.
4) Energy production: B12 is a coenzyme that helps in converting food into energy by facilitating various metabolic processes in the body.
Sources of Vitamin B12:
Vitamin B12 is primarily found in animal-derived food sources. Some of the best sources include:
- Meat (especially liver and kidney)
- Fish (such as salmon, trout, and tuna)
- Shellfish (like clams, mussels, and crab)
- Poultry (chicken, turkey, etc.)
- Eggs and dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt)
Vegans and vegetarians might face a risk of B12 deficiency since plant-based foods do not contain significant amounts of this vitamin. In such cases, fortified foods like fortified cereals and plant-based milk alternatives, as well as B12 supplements, can help meet the daily requirements.
Absorption and Deficiency:
Vitamin B12 is not directly absorbed in the stomach; instead, it requires a protein called intrinsic factor, produced in the stomach, to bind to it for proper absorption in the small intestine. Certain medical conditions or medications that interfere with intrinsic factor production can lead to B12 deficiency even if the diet contains an adequate amount of the vitamin.
Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency may include fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, pale skin, constipation, loss of appetite, nerve problems like tingling or numbness in extremities, and cognitive issues.
Deficiency can have serious consequences on the nervous system and may lead to irreversible neurological damage if left untreated. Therefore, it’s crucial to identify and treat B12 deficiency early.
The recommended daily intake of vitamin B12 varies by age, sex, and life stage. For adults, it typically ranges from 2.4 to 2.8 micrograms per day. Pregnant and breastfeeding women may need higher amounts.
It’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any supplementation to determine the appropriate dosage for your specific needs. If you suspect you have a deficiency or are at risk, get your vitamin B12 levels checked and seek proper medical advice.
Vitamin B: The group of B-vitamins consists of eight water-soluble vitamins that play crucial and interconnected roles in the functioning of cells. .. Read More.