Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin which is essential for a healthy nervous system. B12 strengthens the communication between the brain and the body’s many nerve sensors, such as fingers, toes and tongue, assuring quick brain-body response time and effective sensory reactions.
What if I don’t get enough vitamin B12?
Because the body is unable to store vitamin B12 in the system for very long, people who don’t frequently eat food sources which contain vitamin B12 or take B12 supplements are at risk of getting B12 deficiency. Low B12 levels can corrupt neurological functions, leading to a variety of vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms, including numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, altered taste perception, slow reflexes and mouth soreness.
Your body needs adequate amounts of vitamin B12 in order to control muscular movements. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, B12 deficiency causes severe nerve damage that could hinder one’s ability to walk straight or control muscle behavior efficiently. Also, muscle strength and balance can be severely compromised.
Vitamin B12 plays a vital role in maintaining emotional stability and clarity. Insufficient vitamin B12 levels can cause mental disturbances such as depression, restlessness, aggressiveness, hallucinations and paranoia. Studies have also proven that vitamin B12 prevents dementia by delaying age-related brain shrinkage, a result of Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss. Some other serious consequences of B12 deficiency include pernicious anemia, chronic fatigue and increased risk for heart attack.
Sources of vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 occurs naturally in foods such as lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products. Vegans are therefore at risk for developing B12 deficiency, as their diet specifically excludes all rich sources of vitamin B12.
Some individuals are unable to digest B12 from food sources, due to lack of intrinsic factor, a protein which is essential for drawing B12 from food supplies and delivering it to the body. For patients of gastric bypass surgery or Crohn’s disease, diabetics who take metformin, or individuals who take heartburn medication, doctors frequently advise a strict regimen of vitamin B12 supplements.