Vitamin B12 And The Role It Plays In The Body

What Is Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)?

Vitamin B12 is part of the Vitamin B family, which is complex and made of eight proponents. Vitamin B12, as well as the others in the complex, is water soluble and plays important functions in the body, as does the larger Vitamin B complex. Among the roles of these vitamins are DNA synthesis and the maintenance of the nervous system. The B complex vitamins are responsible for converting carbohydrates into glucose that provides fuel for the body. Seeing as these vitamins are water soluble, the body does not store them.

Roles of Vitamin B12 in The Body

Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is essential in the body of human beings from childhood to adulthood. Vitamin B12 helps with the production of the genetic material, DNA, and RNA as well as neurotransmitters, and it also helps maintain healthy nerve cells. It also works closely with folic acid (vitamin B9) to produce the compound involved in mood and immune function. 

Food Sources of Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is quite easy to access and consume. Some of the food sources include animal protein such as dairy products, eggs, shellfish, poultry, and fish. You also get B12 from organ meats such as kidney and liver. Beef and pork are yet another source. If your daily diet includes these foods, you have a high chance of meeting your daily requirement of B12.

Vegans and vegetarians may find themselves at a loss, seeing as this nutrient is specifically available in animal products. Plant-based sources of cobalamin include breakfast cereals and plant milk alternatives fortified with vitamin B12. This group of vitamins is the only one known that is not supplied by a variety of fruits and vegetables. This, again, exposes vegans and vegetarians to deficiency if they cannot find a fortified source.

B12 is available in supplements for those who will not consume it through foods. There are lozenges, soft gels, oral tablets, intranasal forms, and capsules. For children, multivitamins are available in liquid drops and chewable forms.

How Do You Know You Are Vitamin B12 Deficient?

The deficiency of vitamin B12 does not show abruptly. It may take some time to recognize it as it presents in typical ways that would not appear as illness. Fatigue, palpitations, dizziness, and shortness of breath are some of the presentations of Vitamin B12 deficiency. The patient may also experience diarrhea and a tingling sensation in the extreme parts of the body. That aside, they could become nervous for no reason, and experience numbness in their legs and hands.

The cases of deficiency are more common in the elderly than they are in the younger generation, partly because of the diet. It could be credited to the simple fact that the elderly have less stomach acid which the body needs to absorb Vitamin B12.

Another group easily targeted by lack of enough B12 is vegans and vegetarians, for the simple reason that their diet does not include the nutrients. In severe cases, the lack of B12 in the body will lead to dementia and confusion and even loss of memory.

Other groups of people that are predisposed to B12 deficiency include people with diseases such as Crohn disease, those using particular types of medication and those having just undergone weight loss surgeries. These groups could have a problem absorbing these crucial nutrients. Eating disorders can also prevent one from getting the required amount of this vitamin. In some cases, strict diets that restrict the intake of the vital food groups could be exposing people to B12 deficiency.

Recommended Doses of Vitamin B12 In Infants and Children

Different age groups have their unique daily requirements of this nutrient. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) in infants between age 0 and 6 months is 0.4mcg (micrograms). Babies aged between 7 and 12 months are required to take 0.5mcg, while those aged between 1 and 3 years will consume 0.9mcg per day.

Children between 4 and 8 years require 1.2mcg of B12 per day, while those between 9 and 13 years will need 1.8mcg. These requirements are per the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

For Adults and Pregnant Females

According to the NIH, The RDA for adults is 2.4mcg for those aged 14 years and older. Lactating, adult females will need up to 2.8mcg, while adolescent and adult pregnant women will require 2.6mcg per day. Older people aged 50 years and above will require higher doses of the nutrient. They will not only require 25-100 mcg of B12 per day, but they will also need to consume B12 fortified foods or take supplements to meet the daily requirement.

Seeing as adults over 50 years will need to supplement the entire B complex, Dr. Weil recommends taking 50mcg a day through a supplement that will provide the whole range of the B complex family. Most of these B vitamins work hand in hand.

There is no such thing as too much vitamin B12 as it poses no danger to the body. After all, cobalamin is water soluble, and so the body will take what it needs and then get rid of the rest through urine. However, some vitamins in the B complex can be problematic to the body if consumed in excess.

Some Inhibitors

Some supplements reduce the body’s ability to absorb B12. Potassium supplements have been seen to reduce absorption of BB12 while Vitamin C supplements can interact with absorption of B12 found in food. Stomach acid aids in the absorption of B12 and so drugs that reduce r interfere with its production will affect B12. Excessive consumption of alcohol as well as levels of nicotine may influence the absorption of the vitamin too.

Older people may have a problem absorbing B12 through their stomachs, thanks to the lower levels of stomach acid and so regular supplements may not work as well. In this case, the better option is an oral spray of vitamin B12 or an under the tongue pill that will be absorbed directly through blood vessels that are in the mouth.