Vitamin B12: Benefits, Sources, Deficiency

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is essential for blood formation and proper brain function. When the disease pernicious anemia (usually found in elderly patients) didn’t have a cure, scientists discovered it could be rectified by Vitamin B12. 

This disease occurs due to the absence of intrinsic factor, which does not allow the body to absorb vitamin B12. Thanks to the handful of scientists who discovered B12, this disease doesn’t exist anymore.

Benefits of Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 plays an important role in the functioning metabolism of every cell in the body, especially the cells which affect DNA synthesis, the regulation of fatty acid metabolism and amino acid metabolism.

Most bacteria consist of inbuilt enzymes for their synthesis, whereas fungi, plants and animals do not have this potential.

Vitamin B12 is the largest vitamin that is structurally complicated and can be synthesized only through the fermentation of bacteria.

Vitamin B12 is used in the treatment of cyanide poisoning and hereditary deficiency of the glycoprotein produced by the salivary glands. 

In elderly people, Vitamin B12 offers protection against brain shrinkage leading to Alzheimer’s disease and abnormal mental function. It also balances the stimulation activity in individuals who are prone to allergy. 

For adults, the minimum intake of Vitamin B12 should be around 2-3 micrograms per day to conform to US norms and 1.5 micrograms per day as per UK norms. Vitamin B12 should never exceed the specified dietary dosage.

Sources of Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is commonly found in fortified food and fresh sea algae. It is also typically found in shellfish, beef liver, fish (especially mackerel and crab), soy products (milk), fortified cereals, red meat, skim milk, cheese, and eggs (specifically, chicken eggs).

Yoghurts are also a rich form of Vitamin B12, as they are fermented.

Deficiency of Vitamin B12

Those on a vegan diet who steer clear of milk, cheese or eggs are more prone to Vitamin B12 deficiency than people on a more varied diet. Hence mothers on a vegan diet have been found to give birth to children who are Vitamin B12- deficient. 

However, there is no crucial evidence to prove this. Researchers are looking more into this aspect of veganism.

Since vitamin B12 plays a direct role in maintaining the brain and the nervous system, its deficiency can cause severe and irreversible damage to the brain.

People with slightly lower levels of B12 show symptoms of restlessness, depression, fatigue, light-headedness, weakness and poor memory.

Lack of vitamin B12 in the body is also known to result in abnormally elevated arousal energy levels—termed as mood swings and abnormal behaviour of the mind.

Vitamin B12 deficiency leads to thinning of the stomach lining. Certain surgeries like intestine removal or part of the stomach, or weight loss activity also reduce Vitamin B12.

Deficiency may be found in those who suffer from Crohn’s disease, which affects the intestine; also parasites, bacterial growth and celiac disease (a problem with digesting gluten, a protein in foods, affecting the absorption of nutrients). 

It leads to severe forms of gas and bloating, weight loss and even fatigue in some. People who are in the habit of consuming a large amount of alcohol every day also suffer from Vitamin B12 deficiency.

Similarly, those who are on heavy medication or drugs, which reduces the acidic level of the body, are also more prone to being vitamin B12-deficient. B12- deficient people show signs of rapid heartbeat, pale skin and sore tongue.

They bruise easily, bleed quickly and take a long time to recover. Lack of B12 also causes chronic toothaches, or the sufferer’s gums bleed quickly.

Drastic weight loss, diarrhoea and constipation are also among the results of Vitamin B12 deficiency.

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