Vitamin B12 is one of the most well-studied vitamins and the first that comes to mind if someone feels exhausted or is simply vegetarian! So what is vitamin B12 and why is it necessary for our body?
Vitamin B12: what is it
Vitamin B12 or Cobalamin is a water-soluble vitamin that belongs to the vitamin B complex. It is essential for the body because it plays an important role in the formation of red blood cells as well as cell division. It also contributes to energy metabolism in our body as well as to the normal function of the immune system.
Vitamin B12: where is it?
Basically, vitamin B12 is found in foods of animal origin such as meat, poultry, fish and seafood, dairy products and eggs. For this reason, there is often a lack of it in vegetarians, but also in the elderly due to diminished appetite and denture problems that may cause difficulty in eating meat. So, there are now many other foods that are enriched with vitamin B12, such as cereals and plant milk.
Generally, vitamin B12 is composed of bacteria. Although in the human gut bacteria can synthesize vitamin B12, this is not retained for long and is not absorbed to a satisfactory degree, so it is vital to take it from the food. Small quantities can also be found in fermented plant foods thanks to the bacteria they contain, but they are not considered as reliable sources (1).
Often fatigue and weakness is associated with a lack of vitamin B12, as this nutrient contributes significantly to energy production. More specifically, our body uses glucose as “fuel” and vitamin B12 contributes decisively to the conversion of carbohydrates to glucose. In addition, the body uses B12 for converting fatty acids also into energy. Thus, lack of vitamin B12 leads to reduced energy production (2).
Psychological and Neurological function. Vitamin B12 appears to contribute to physiological neurological and psychological functions (3). It is necessary for the proper development of the nerves, but also for the brain. Thus, by ensuring adequate levels of vitamin B12, we reduce the likelihood of some mental dysfunction.
Managing Anemia. Thanks to the ability of B12 to participate in the formation of red blood cells, its role in the case of anemia is decisive. Often anemia may be due to a lack of B12, which is why supplementation or even injections with B12 are often a basic choice for the treating physician (4). It is important to consult your doctor before taking B12 for anemia.
It regulates homocysteine. Vitamin B12 reduces high levels of homocysteine, a substance that appears to be linked with cardiovascular disease. Even more effective is if it is combined with folic acid and vitamin B6.
Strong Bones. Adequate intake of vitamin B12 can support good bone health. A study carried out on more than 2,500 adults showed that those who were deficient in vitamin B12 had bone density lower than normal (5). But this makes the bones more fragile and increases the risk of osteoporosis!
Vitamin B12: supplement
Vitamin B12 will usually be found as a dietary supplement in the form of cyanocobalamin or methylcobalamin. Views differ on which is more absorbable. Cyanocobalamin is a synthetic form of vitamin B12, which is considered more stable and therefore better utilized by the body. On the other hand, methylcobalamin is in a more active form and is considered a good choice for smokers, who easily dispose cobalamin in their urine, possibly due to cyanide uptake by tobacco (5).
Still, we will often find supplements with vitamin B12 in sublingual form instead of swallowing. In the sublingual form, the substance passes directly into the bloodstream, thus bypassing the pathway from the digestive system, during which its absorption or efficacy can be reduced. However, many studies show that there is no difference in the efficacy and bioavailability of the two forms, considering them to be equal (6).
In addition, vitamin B12 acts synergistically with folic acid, which has a much better effect, so you will often find these two together in various dietary supplements. Vitamin B12 is also a key ingredient in iron formulas for people with anemia, bleeding or intense fatigue. This is because of its contribution to the synthesis of red blood cells.
Taking vitamin B12 is contraindicated in the case of Leber’s disease. In addition, in the event of megaloblastic anemia or high red blood cell production, the dose of B12 should be determined by your doctor.
Vitamin B12 and pregnancy
Vitamin B12 intake is probably safe in pregnancy and breast-feeding if consumed in the amount it is prescribed by their doctor (7).
If chloramphenicol is taken, it is possible to reduce the effectiveness of B12 in the synthesis of new blood cells. However, this drug is mostly taken for a short time, so there is usually no particular problem.
Vitamin B12 is therefore a very useful nutrient for the body, essential for many of its essential functions. So put in your diet foods that contain it and if you are vegetarian choose products enriched in it. If you feel intense fatigue or have any of the above problems associated with its lack, ask your doctor for a relevant test to check B12 levels in your body!
In Vita4you.gr you will find many supplements with Vitamin B12!