Why is B12 so Important?

What is vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 was synthesized in 1972 by chemists Robert Burns Woodward and Albert Eschenmoser. It is a water-soluble and also known as cobalamin. Because vitamin B12 comprises the mineral cobalt, compounds with vitamin B12 activity are collectively called "cobalamins" It binds to the protein in the foods we consume. In the stomach, hydrochloric acid and enzymes unbind B12 into its loose form. From there, vitamin B12 unites with a protein called intrinsic factor so that it can be absorbed better down in the small intestine.


Main functions of vitamin B12.

Vitamin B12 is a powerful neural compound is required for the development, formation of the myelin sheath around a nerve fiber, and proper functioning of the central nervous system; very important for healthy red blood cell formation; and DNA synthesis.


Basically, B12 helps keep your body's blood and nerve cells healthy and in the manufacturing new Red Blood cells (RBC). 


Which foods are the best source of vitamin B12.

Vitamin B12 is naturally found in many animal foods and dairy products. Plant foods contain no vitamin B12 unless fortified, which is why B12 deficiency is seen more in vegetarians and vegans. 


Foods that naturally contain vitamin B12 include 

  • Fish (All fish and shellfish are considered excellent sources of Vitamin B12)
  • Milk, and other dairy products like cottage cheese, yogurt, buttermilk, and fortified soy milk
  • Meat and poultry chicken and eggs

While some breakfast cereals, energy bars, nutritional yeasts, and other food products are fortified with vitamin B12. Vegetarians/Vegans do not receive the required amount of Vit B12 from their normal diet and hence need Vit B12 tablets or supplements. It is available in multivitamin/multimineral supplements, in B-complex supplements, and in supplements containing only vitamin B12. It is also available in a tablet that is dissolved under your tongue (called sublingual vitamin B12) which results in better and quicker absorption as compared to oral tablets. 

The amount of vitamin B12 in supplements varies widely. Some provide doses of vitamin B12 that are much above recommended amounts, like 500 mcg or 1,000 mcg, but your body absorbs only some of it. These doses are generally considered safe. Check the Supplement Facts label to ascertain what proportion vitamin B12 a supplement contains. A prescription based vitamin B12 is often given as an injection/shot to treat vitamin B12 deficiency and also as a nasal gel that is to be sprayed into the nose as people with pernicious anemia, an autoimmune disease, can't make intrinsic factor to which the B12 needs to combine for absorption. As a result, they have trouble absorbing vitamin B12 from both foods and dietary supplements.


What happens when your levels of vitamin B12 is low?

Do you know that Vitamin B12 deficiency affects between 3% and 43% of adults?

Now, how can you determine if you are getting enough B12 or not? 

Your body tends to store around 1,000 to 2,000 times as much vitamin B12 as you'd typically eat in a day, so the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency can take several years to appear. A deficiency can cause various neurological problems and a significant reduction in the production of RBCs. 


Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Causes and Symptoms.


Vegetarians and Vegans are most prone to Vitamin B12 deficiency as the foods they consume rarely contain this vitamin. The deficiency of this vitamin can also be triggered by the prolonged use of certain types of drugs, lack of binding proteins in the body, improper absorption of nutrients by the body, intestinal disorders, or even surgery.


Some of the common symptoms that let you know you have low levels/deficiency of Vitamin B12

  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Dizziness
  • Blurry vision
  • Pale / Jaundiced skin
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Numbness/ tingly sensation
  • Balance problem
  • Depression
  • Poor memory
  • Soreness of mouth/tongue
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Heart palpitations
  • Constipation/Digestive problems
  • Muscle weakness
  • Mood changes
  • Breathlessness


Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to many major health problems as it can damage the nervous system, so it's important to treat a deficiency as soon as possible. The adequate intake or Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Vitamin B12 is

Age Male Female Pregnancy Lactation
Birth to 6 months* 0.4 mcg 0.4 mcg    
7 to12 months* 0.5 mcg 0.5 mcg    
1 to 3 years 0.9 mcg 0.9 mcg    
4 to 8 years 1.2 mcg 1.2 mcg    
9 to 13 years 1.8 mcg 1.8 mcg    
14 to 18 years 2.4 mcg 2.4 mcg 2.6 mcg

2.8 mcg

19+ years 2.4 mcg 2.4 mcg 2.6 mcg

2.8 mcg


* Adequate quantity may vary as per individual or underlying diseases

Vitamin B12 deficiency is actually common and can present itself in many varied ways, making it difficult to identify.

If you have any of the symptoms above, speak to your doctor. Your doctor may prescribe a Vitamin B12 test is a simple blood test to determine the levels in your body helping your doctor to prescribe the dosage. Unipath specialty laboratory provides home sample collection for your convenience and a range of preventive health checkups which include vitamin and mineral deficiency blood tests.

For most people, a B12 deficiency should be easy to prevent simply by ensuring you are getting enough B12 in your diet. 

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