Table of Contents
- What is Vitamin B12?
- Signs of a Vitamin B12 Deficiency
- Health Benefits of Vitamin B12
- Better Sleeping Patterns
- Improved Mood and Nervous System Function
- More Energy and Vitality
- Stronger Immune System
- Prevents Memory Loss
- Maintains Heart Health
- Effective Pain Relief
- Anti-Inflammatory Properties
- Anemia Prevention
- Healthy Digestion
- Improves the Condition of Skin and Hair
- Possible Cancer Prevention
- Prevent Deficiency Inheritance in Newborns
- Best Vitamin B12 Food Sources
- Vitamin B12 Precautions
Vitamin B12 is a crucial organic nutrient that plays an essential role in your overall mental and physical health.
While it’s found in a number of dietary sources, deficiencies are fairly common worldwide.
An increase in your Vitamin B12 intake through foods and supplements can provide you with a number of significant benefits.
Here’s a collection of the most notable Vitamin B12 benefits, and some common sources that can help you meet your daily dosage.
Read this article to determine if you’re suffering from a deficiency, to get important information about how your body will react to the vitamin, and to see how it can improve your everyday life.
What is Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12, also referred to as Cobalamin, is a vitamin that is typically found in animal food sources.
It’s also present in fortified plant-based foods, but it’s more abundant and easily absorbed from dairy products, meat, and poultry.
It comes in many forms.
The exact form is distinguished by the atomic makeup of the vitamin, and how hydrogen, methane, and oxygen are combined (1).
Vitamin B12 is water-soluble and is absorbed into your body in the last part of the small intestine (2).
Before it reaches that point, Coabamalin is separated from an attached protein by stomach acid.
Once it is absorbed, it flows through the bloodstream and is stored in the liver.
Due to the manner in which the vitamin dissolves, it’s flushed out of the body relatively quickly.
As a result, it’s important to supply your body with a fresh dose every day.
While Cobalamin has far-reaching effects on your body, its main role is to maintain the nervous system, support your DNA, and assist with blood cell production (3).
It keeps your nerve cells healthy by strengthening and protecting the insulating layer of fat around each cell, called the myelin sheath.
With a deficiency, the signals that are sent from one neuron to another aren’t delivered efficiently.
Essentially, the vitamin helps to ensure that you have the cognitive function you need to think, act, and move.
When it comes to DNA synthesis, a lack of Vitamin B12 can prevent cells from progressing through the growth cycle.
The vitamin helps with the production and replication of DNA.
Improper production can lead to poor cell and tissue growth.
This function is especially important during pregnancy, adolescence, and after an injury.
The same goes for blood cell production, which helps to deliver oxygen to organs throughout the body.
Cobalamin is a vital component in the metabolic function of your cells and affects various parts of your body.
Signs of a Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Since Cobalamin affects a number of different aspects of your overall health, a deficiency can be difficult to diagnose.
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Common B12 deficiency symptoms are often mistaken for other ailments.
That said, a considerable number of Americans suffer from low levels of Vitamin B12.
Studies conducted by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that up to 39 percent of the population isn’t getting enough of the vitamin (4).
You may be suffering from a Vitamin B12 deficiency if you’re experiencing (5):
- Digestive issues
- Bleeding gums and sores in the mouth
- Joint pain
- Difficulty concentrating on tasks
- Minor memory loss
- Lethargy and chronic fatigue
- Dizziness and frequent light-headedness
- Frequent mood changes
- Breathing difficulties
- Aching muscles
- Overall body weakness
- Decreased appetite
- Pernicious anemia
To diagnose a deficiency properly, blood tests must be performed.
Laboratory professionals will measure the levels of B12 serum in the blood.
However, simple blood tests aren’t always accurate.
It’s not uncommon for standard blood tests to measure healthy levels of B12 on those that suffer from diseases related to an insufficient supply of the vitamin.
To get the detailed results, the blood test must measure for high homocysteine levels.
B12 combats homocysteines, which is a pathogen to many harmful diseases.
High homocysteine levels indicate that the blood doesn’t have enough Cobalamin to keep numbers low.
Certain groups of people are more likely to suffer from a Cobalamin deficiency, compared to the general population.
The issue commonly affects elderly people and those on a plant-based diet.
As you get older, your body may have difficulties absorbing the vitamin.
This is due to a decrease in stomach acid production.
A healthy supply of stomach acid is needed to convert this vitamin into a usable form.
Vegans and vegetarians are also affected by low levels.
As mentioned earlier, Vitamin B12 comes from animal meat, animal byproducts, and poultry.
A diet consisting of mainly fruits and vegetables doesn’t provide you with enough Cobalamin to thrive.
Smokers are also affected, as nicotine affects nutrient absorption.
Health Benefits of Vitamin B12
Better Sleeping Patterns
If you constantly toss and turn at night, consider getting more B12 in your diet.
Cobalamin is often used as a treatment for sleep-wake rhythm disorders (6).
It can help you fall asleep faster because it plays a role in the production of melatonin.
Melatonin is lovingly referred to as the “sleep hormone,” as it regulates sleep and wakefulness.
With a sufficient supply of Vitamin B12, your body will have plenty of melatonin to help you get a good night of rest.
Furthermore, Cobalamin has been known to release the hormone into your bloodstream earlier in the night.
You’ll have no problem falling asleep soon after you lie down, which will allow you to wake up the next morning alert.
Once the hormone is released, it can also change your sensitivity to light.
The change in melatonin levels will make it easier to transition from a sleeping state to an alert one.
While this may seem like an undesirable side effect, it can help to advance and regulate your circadian rhythm.
Essentially, the increased B12 will stop the melatonin signal in your brain when you’re exposed to light.
To put it simply, say goodbye to that prolonged groggy period after you wake up.
Cobalamin’s effect on melatonin levels and light sensitivity are also quite useful in combating jet lag when you travel to a destination in a different time zone.
Improved Mood and Nervous System Function
A better mood is one of the most sought-after Cobalamin benefits.
It’s been found to reduce symptoms of depression and help to lift your overall mood (7).
It can also help to keep anxiety and stress under control.
The way it does this is by participating in the production of a chemical compound.
This compound is called S-adenosyl methionine, or SAM for short.
This compound is imperative for your overall mental health.
It plays a part in your neurological function, and ultimately regulates your mood (8).
It can even determine how you deal with stress (9).
If you’re someone who doesn’t handle stress well, it may be due to a Vitamin B12 deficiency.
Vitamin B12 and folate, which is a form of folic acid, and Vitamin B9, are directly responsible for a metabolic process that creates the chemical compound.
Without them, your nervous system is stripped of the hormones you need to stay happy and mentally fit.
More Energy and Vitality
Chronic fatigue is an issue that plagues millions of people.
In many instances, the issue is directly related to the levels of Vitamin B12 available in their body.
Without the appropriate amount of B12, your metabolism suffers.
In turn, you may feel tired and drowsy only a few hours after you wake up.
You can fix this problem over time by increasing your intake.
Cobalamin is one of eight different B vitamins that is responsible for converting the food you eat into usable glucose.
The glucose is then burned into the cells’ mitochondria to create energy that’s used to operate correctly.
You need it for general muscle operation in every part of your body.
Think of it like fuel in your car’s gas tank.
Without energy, you can’t walk, talk, or function.
A lack of B12 makes conversion difficult, resulting in low energy.
In addition to helping to create glucose, Cobalamin has a part in delivering signals that tell parts of your body to move when you want them to.
These signals are responsible for muscle contraction.
Stronger Immune System
Appropriate levels of B12 can help keep you healthy and avoid illnesses.
The nutrient works to fight off germs and pathogens by identifying potentially dangerous bacteria that can lead to serious diseases.
It’s located throughout the body, so it can stop potentially harmful invaders everywhere.
When it spots something, it goes on the attack to prevent the issue from spreading and wreaking havoc on your body.
It’s also partially responsible for the production of red blood cells and hemoglobin.
An absence of B12 in your system can actually lead to a serious health issue called pernicious anemia.
Pernicious anemia is caused by a Vitamin B12 deficiency.
It can be difficult to treat the condition because it directly affects how the vitamin is absorbed.
B12 is absorbed in the small intestines with the help of intrinsic factor.
Intrinsic factor is a protein that’s secreted in the stomach lining.
It holds onto B12 and carries it to the absorption point.
Cobalamin also works to fight off homocysteines.
These harmful pathogens lead to a host of health issues.
Prevents Memory Loss
Among the most important Vitamin B12 benefits is how it helps to protect your brain as you age.
It can help to prevent memory loss by maintaining nerve health and that of your overall nervous system.
Cobalamin also works to ensure that neurotransmitter signals are being delivered efficiently to the brain.
A sufficient supply of the nutrient is used by neuron organelles to keep your brain strong.
One of the most unsettling B12 deficiency symptoms is the development of neurodegenerative diseases.
These include Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Cobalamin can help you reduce the risks of ever suffering from these conditions.
The presence of the vitamin helps to prevent damage over time as you get older.
If you do happen to experience neural damage, B12 may have a positive effect on your recovery.
Studies have shown positive effects on neural regeneration (10).
It helps your brain heal and rebuild itself so that you can prevent any lasting damage.
Maintains Heart Health
Your heart is susceptible to various issues throughout your life, based on your daily activity, the food you eat, your lifestyle choices, and much more.
One of the deadliest conditions you can suffer from is heart disease.
It’s the number one cause of death throughout the world.
The disease causes your heart to malfunction, and can eventually lead to cardiac arrest or death.
Vitamin B12 helps to lower your risk of heart disease by keeping homocysteine levels low.
As mentioned earlier, homocysteines are pathogens to disease.
They are present in meat that you eat.
B12 destroys homocysteines to keep levels at a constant low (11).
In addition to keeping pathogens at bay, Cobalamin has also been shown to benefit cholesterol and blood pressure.
Regular absorption of the vitamin can help you keep your cholesterol under control and lower your blood pressure so that blood is free to move throughout your body uninhibited.
Effective Pain Relief
If you’re suffering from any sort of pain, consider increasing your levels of B12.
It’s considered an analgesic, or pain reliever.
It has been found to help with a variety of different issues.
Cobalamin may also help to improve the effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
The vitamin works to spread the drug throughout the body and assists with the neurological signals that contribute to pain.
In some cases, the nutrient may also help with clinical symptoms.
For example, studies have shown that it can help to alleviate the tingling pain that comes with leg paresthesia.
It may also help to reduce the likelihood of you experiencing sudden pain from chronic conditions.
Additionally, injections have been used to treat back issues and mouth ulcers.
Certain forms of Cobalamin can be used to prevent swelling and treat chronic pain.
Methylcobalamin, in particular, has been found to reduce swelling (12).
It may be able to treat chronic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and provide relief.
A supplementary form of the vitamin can be consumed or applied topically to treat other conditions like diabetic neuropathy and fibromyalgia.
Those that suffer from a Cobalamin deficiency are more susceptible to chronic inflammatory conditions.
The vitamin works to keep swelling and redness under control by manipulating cytokine production.
Cytokines are small proteins that can change the way surrounding cells behave.
They’re released by immune cells after an injury.
When this happens, they send a signal and start to produce T Lymphocytes.
This complex process starts the inflammation process.
A healthy dose of B12 may be able to suppress this cycle and avoid significant swelling.
Anemia is a condition that can plague people of all ages.
Sufferers have lower red blood cell and hemoglobin counts than average.
These particular cells help to deliver oxygen throughout the body.
The red blood cells carry carbon dioxide to the lungs so that it can be exhaled.
Hemoglobins are also crucial to this exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide.
With an inadequate amount of these unique cells, sufferers will feel tired and weak.
Anemia is a common symptom of B12 deficiency because the vitamin is responsible for the production of red blood cells and hemoglobin.
Cobalamin benefits include healthy blood cells and a decreased chance of megaloblastic anemia (13).
This unusual form of anemia occurs when the red blood cells produced in the bone marrow aren’t able to function well.
They may be too large, abnormally shaped, or simply immature.
With this condition, you’ll have a difficult time making it through the day without feeling fatigued.
B12 can help to regulate the production of these blood cells so that you can stay alert.
B12 can help to keep your digestive system regular and healthy.
It can also prevent you from experiencing digestive issues like inflammatory bowel disease.
This uncomfortable disorder can lead to regular diarrhea and ulcers.
Cobalamin works to avoid the problem by helping your body produce digestive enzymes.
These enzymes will break down food efficiently.
This is also an important reason why older people should increase their B12 intake.
The production of enzymes may naturally decrease the older you get.
It only gets worse if you suffer from an ulcer, stomach lining issue, or inflammatory disease.
In addition to helping with enzyme production, B12 can manage the bacteria population in your gut.
Your stomach and intestines need certain types of bacteria to function properly.
Cobalamin will help foster that bacteria while keeping unwanted types away.
It’ll attack the invaders in your stomach and intestinal tract to ensure that your body has what it needs to process food safely and comfortably.
Improves the Condition of Skin and Hair
This cosmetic Vitamin B12 benefit is a great perk that comes with the numerous health advantages.
Cobalamin is essential for a number of different reasons.
Regarding your hair, the vitamin’s role in red blood cell production can make all the difference.
While hair is made of a strong protein, its base follicle has tiny blood vessels that need oxygen to thrive.
The red blood cells deliver that oxygen to promote growth.
Overall, B12 helps to strengthen the hair by giving it a constant supply of what it needs.
High levels can ultimately prevent hair breakage and speed up the growth process.
Regarding your skin, B12 is beneficial because it promotes cell reproduction.
The skin cells on your face are continually damaged and regenerated.
Signs of aging occur because the cells are losing their ability to reproduce themselves and stay elastic.
Cobalamin can help to keep this process of constant reproduction going for as long as possible.
Furthermore, the vitamin is an anti-inflammatory.
It can be applied to the skin directly to reduce redness and swelling from eczema and psoriasis.
Possible Cancer Prevention
We’ve already seen how Cobalamin treats potentially dangerous pathogens in the body.
While cancer is a more serious condition that’s exceedingly difficult to treat, B12 will do its part to prevent it from spreading and damaging your body.
When cancer cells are detected, the B12 may assist immune system to try to destroy it.
This discovery is relatively new, and scientists are still trying to figure out how this process occurs and what the vitamin is fully capable of.
What they have found is that Cobalamin assists the immune system so much that it may be able to help keep cervical, prostate, and colon cancer under control.
Prevent Deficiency Inheritance in Newborns
If there’s ever a time to be aware of what nutrients and vitamins are going into your body, it’s during pregnancy.
Pregnancy is a complex time where your body is undergoing a variety of changes.
Internally, your cells are working overtime to keep up with your changing body and the life growing inside of you.
You have to consume enough Cobalamin to ensure that both you and your unborn child have a healthy supply.
Deficiencies can be inherited by your child, and they could continue to suffer the consequences as they breastfeed after birth.
A healthy level of Cobalamin is essential.
New mothers can take supplements to increase the B12 levels in their own bodies, within their developing child’s, and in their breastmilk (15).
The increased levels may help to ensure that your child is born with no deficiency.
Best Vitamin B12 Food Sources
One of the best ways to get more Vitamin B12 into your body is through natural and organic sources.
In most cases, your body will have an easier time absorbing the vitamin.
Furthermore, you’ll be able to take advantage of all the extra nutrients.
While there are a number of great dietary sources to choose from, it’s best to mix things up and consume much more than you think you’ll need to meet the recommended dietary allowance.
B12 isn’t an easy nutrient to absorb.
You’ll only absorb approximately 50 percent of the B12 a food has to offer (16).
Usually, it’ll be less than that. Certain forms of Cobalamin are easier to absorb.
For example, the Cobalamin found in red meat is typically absorbed more effectively than that found in poultry.
Luckily, most foods have more B12 than your body will need.
You’ll be able to use the amount you need and flush out the rest with no issues.
If you’re wanting to get some more Vitamin B12 into your diet, here’s a collection of food sources to get you started.
Beef and Chicken Liver
These animals store Cobalamin in their liver much like humans do.
The liver is a nutrient-dense food that’s chock-full of iron, folate, and B12 (17).
Just 3 ounces of liver contains around 81 milligrams of B12.
That’s over 3,000 percent of your daily recommended dose!
Fish fillets are a great meal that’s filled with beneficial nutrients like Omega Fatty Acids.
They also don’t skimp on B12.
In just one fillet of salmon and herring, there are over 19 and 18 milligrams of Cobalamin, respectively.
If canned fish is more your style, tuna and sardines are great as well.
Three ounces of tuna has over 9 milligrams of B12 (18).
One cup of sardines has over 13 milligrams.
Yogurt can do wonders for your overall digestive health.
When coupled with high levels of B12, you can’t go wrong.
A single 6-ounce container has about 1.3 milligrams, which is approximately half of what you need each day.
Raw milk, eggs, and cheese are all breakfast staples that can help you kick-start your day with plenty of Vitamin B12.
Raw milk has about 1 milligram per cup, while cottage cheese has slightly less, at 0.97 milligrams per cup.
A single egg has about 0.6 milligrams of Cobalamin.
Vitamin B12 Precautions
Vitamin B12 Risks
Vitamin B12 is considered a safe nutrient.
You are capable of consuming well beyond your daily recommended dose without experiencing unfavorable B12 side effects.
This is because of the vitamin’s water-soluble nature and absorption rate.
The Cobalamin in your food isn’t fully absorbed into your body.
The rest is simply passed through and discarded.
Even the amount that your body does take up isn’t always used.
Your body will absorb and use how much B12 it needs.
Any extra B12 is stored in the liver for later use.
If that’s not utilized, it’ll flush out of your body through urination.
It’s considered to be a non-toxic vitamin, even if you achieve your daily dose through natural supplements.
That said, you should always try to stick with the daily recommended dose for your age.
You should never consume large amounts of any supplement without having a conversation with your doctor first.
Vitamin B12 Dosing
It’s recommended that adults consume approximately 2.4 micrograms of Vitamin B12 each day.
This daily allowance applies to both men and women.
However, women should consume upwards of 2.6 micrograms if they are pregnant, and up to 2.8 micrograms while they’re breastfeeding (19).
Deficiencies can be transferred to newborn babies if the mother isn’t getting enough of the vitamin during their pregnancy.
The newborn baby may experience deficiencies that last throughout their first year of life, before levels of the vitamin stabilize.
Newborns under the age of 7 months need approximately 0.4 micrograms daily.
Once they’ve reached 7 months, they’ll need 0.5 micrograms, until they’ve reached a full year of age.
As the child gets older, their recommended daily dose will slowly rise.
Kids between the ages of 1 and 3 will need 0.9 micrograms each day.
During the next four years (between the ages of 4 and 8 years old), the amount rises to 1.2 micrograms.
During the preteen and early teen years of 9 to 13, kids will need 1.8 micrograms.
Once a child has reached the age of 14, they will need the same 2.4 micrograms as healthy adults.
If you’re over the age of 50, you may need to take supplements to offset the natural decline that occurs.
These supplements come in the form of pills, drops, and oral sprays.
It’s recommended that elderly folks consume between 25 and 100 milligrams to maintain healthy levels of Cobalamin.
Of course, always speak to a doctor before you start any supplement regime.
Vitamin B12 Interactions
While unfavorable B12 side effects are minimal, the vitamin does interact with certain drugs and chemicals.
If you are a heavy drinker or smoker, the alcohol and nicotine prevent Cobalamin from being absorbed properly.
In some cases, the vitamin is destroyed. Potassium has a similar effect.
While natural sources of potassium won’t interact much in the short-term, absorption is affected if you take any high doses of the nutrient in supplement form.
Chloramphenicol also affects B12 use.
It’s an antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections.
It decreases the number of new blood cells by preventing Cobalamin from producing them.
Typically, this issue isn’t serious, because the antibiotic is only prescribed for short periods of time.
All in all, Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that you should always strive to consume.
It has a wide range of responsibilities that affect every aspect of your overall health.
It’s a safe vitamin that provides you with a plethora of benefits that could change your life.