Benefits and Sources of Vitamin B12, and How to Avoid Deficiency

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In the dark about vitamin B12?  There are so many food sources and types of vitamin B that it can get confusing. What exactly is vitamin B12, what are its benefits, and what are the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency?

What is Vitamin B12?

  • Vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin which was first discovered when it was linked with pernicious anemia, an autoimmune disease.
  • Vitamin B12 is also called cobalamin because it contains rare cobalt.
  • Vitamin B12 is digested when hydrochloric acids in your stomach extract vitamin B12 from a variety of protein sources.
  • Vitamin B12 then combines with intrinsic factor before being absorbed into the intestines.
  • supplements; cyanocobalamin is also valued for its stability and low cost, and for that reason is often used as a food additive.

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What are the benefits of vitamin B12?

Some of the main benefits of vitamin B12 have to do with maintaining a healthy nervous system, producing plenty of red blood cells, and decreasing our risk for developing cardiovascular disease:

  • We need vitamin B12 for healthy nerve cells; vitamin B12 aids in conducting neurotransmitter activity between the brain and our many sensors. Also, vitamin B12 is beneficial in metabolizing fatty acids such as omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for building the myelin sheath, a set of proteins which protects our nerve cells.
  • Vitamin B12 functions in production of red blood cells, which are essential for carrying oxygen throughout our bodies.
  • Our bodies utilize vitamin B12 for cell metabolism, particularly in relation to (DNA) genetic material.
  • Vitamin B12 regulates production of homocysteine; strong correlations exist between vitamin B12 deficiency, high homocysteine levels and increased risk of heart attack or other cardiovascular disease.

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What are the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency?

There are many conditions which are associated with vitamin B12 deficiency. Some common symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency are:

  • Chronic fatigue;
  • Depression;
  • Tingling or numbness in hands or feet;
  • Short term memory loss;
  • Increased aggressiveness;
  • Change in taste perception;
  • Irritability;
  • heart palpitations;
  • Sleep difficulties;
  • Imbalance, dizziness

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Left untreated, vitamin B12 deficiency could lead to pernicious anemia or severe damage to the nervous system.

Where do you get vitamin B12?

  • Vitamin B12 can be found in many protein sources; some good food sources for getting a healthy dose of vitamin B12 include lean chuck beef, oysters, clams and many other shellfish, dairy products like swiss cheese and yogurt, eggs, and fish, such as salmon and halibut.

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  • Vegetarians and vegans are particularly at risk for developing a vitamin B12 deficiency, as their diets strictly exclude the riches food sources of B12. Vegans are strongly advised to supplement their diet with homocysteine vitamin B12, in order to prevent B12 deficiency which could result in pernicious anemia or severe neurological damage.

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  • Some people lack the intrinsic factor needed to properly digest vitamin B12; individuals who suffer gastrointestinal diseases like Crohn’s or have had gastric bypass surgery cannot utilize vitamin B12 naturally and are  advised to supplement with B12.

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