Learning about Vitamin B12
You may be already aware of the group of B complex vitamins. Among them an important vitamin that is key to the development of RBCs (red blood cells) and the functioning of the brain or the CNS (central nervous system) is vitamin B12. It is essential in the synthesis of DNA and is one of the eight B complex vitamins. Vitamin B12 is known as cobalamin which is a water soluble vitamin required in the body. The basic vitamin B12 foods that have the presence of vitamin B12 are eggs, meat, fish, poultry and other dietary supplements. Vitamin B12 comes under the category of “essential” vitamins because our own body cannot produce it by itself. It has to be formed in enzymes that certain bacterial synthesis can produce. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause several set of problems so even if one doesn’t take it in foods then a supplement is necessary.
How does B12 function?
Vitamin B12 being the “essential” vitamin our body needs for different syntheses; it carries out several functions in the human body. Other than development and formation of RBCs there are some other vital functions you should know:
1. Healthy heart
Vitamin B12 is important to keep the homocysteine levels of the blood in check. The free circulation of which can cause arterial inflammation which is unfavourable. It is healthy to keep a vitamin B12 in diets.
2. Protects nerves
As one of the key functions of vitamin B12 is to ensure a proper functioning of the CNS, it adds to protect nerves from damage. This means the protective covering over nerves or the myelin sheath remains healthy with an adequate B12 intake. Nerves can die or be damaged if this protection is tampered. This may lead to inconsequential signals to the brain and cause nervous disorders. Vitamin B12 also aids nerves to grow.
3. Provides cell energy
Ever wondered why you might feel constantly tired and fatigued? One of the reasons could be that your body cells need an energizer. Vitamin B12 deficiency typically shows these symptoms because your cells aren’t creating energy. Vitamin B12 helps to keep cells healthy and energetic.
Vitamin B12 also helps in the body’s metabolism process. It aids in burning fats and carbs. In addition to it, vitamin B12 is also helpful for the digestive system.
5. Healthy Bones
If higher levels of homocysteine are found in your blood then chances are that bones could be fragile. In the sense, bone degenerative conditions such as osteoporosis may occur if there is a severe vitamin B12 deficiency. If vitamin B12 foods are taken properly and with doctor consultation this can be treated or better still, avoided.
Yes, vitamin B12 makes you look and feel younger because of its DNA synthesis properties. People with high diabetes or some such conditions may not feel energetic or may even feel depressed because of vitamin B12 deficiency. B12 also helps escalates moods and general well- being.
7. Healthy Reproduction
Vitamin B12 also promotes a healthy reproductive system. It also helps in absorbing iron.
How much B12 do we need?
The good news is the adult body does not need more than 2.4 mg of vitamin B12 every day in their system to function. For pregnant or lactating women the intake could be between 2.4-2.8 mgs per day. The intake for B12 is the lowest of all the other B complex vitamins. However, you have to make sure the levels don’t fall below this range because it may lead to problems such as anaemia, short term memory losses, depression, fatigue and the like. It has been studied that adults can have a severe vitamin B12 deficiency without them knowing it, so it is best to get your vitamin tests done once in a while. You should not worry if your B12 intake is more than the prescribed range. Vitamin B12 is water soluble so your body will naturally flush the extra out.
Top 7 Signs of Vitamin B12 deficiency
As the essential nature of cobalamin or vitamin B12 has been discussed, you can understand it encompasses all the vital functions required for a healthy body. Naturally, this kind of a serious deficiency can cause disorders and symptoms. However it is best not to neglect early symptoms and balance it with vitamin B12 foods. Usually, vitamin B12 deficiency cannot be seen or felt for the longest time until it does. So here are the top 7 signs:
- Pain, fatigue and weakness
The basic symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency shows when you are experiencing some kind of chronic pain. Vitamin B12 helps in creating anaerobic energy for the cells, which aids your movement, thinking and other cognitive functions. There could be additional lightheaded feelings or general weakness where muscles struggle to pull through while you are walking or running. There could be cases of chronic pain also which may occur in the form of constant back pain or fibromyalgia. This combination could be the result of vitamin B12 deficiency and vitamin D deficiencies.
- Blood related syndromes
The common symptom is that of anaemia. If you were diagnosed with anaemia then you should get checked for vitamin B12 deficiency.
- Numbness of limbs
A popular categorization of vitamin B12 deficiency is a tingling sensation or a “needles and pins” sensation in hands or feet. If there is a numbing feeling of hands and feet then it could be a sign of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Skin and hair issues may occur if there is a vitamin B12 deficiency. Hyperpigmentation as in dark patchy skin could be a result of this deficiency. This may even be related to several other conditions but one of the key reasons are because of cobalamin deficiency.
- Shortness of Breath
This is a very common sign for vitamin B12 deficiency. If you experience faster heartbeat or run short of your breath often then you should consider testing for B12 deficiency.
- Mental illnesses
Vitamin B12 affects the ability to think clearly. It checks your movement and thinking abilities and if active depression, mood swings occur then the reason could be a vitamin B12 deficiency. Alzheimer’s disease and even dementia can occur from a severe deficiency. This could however be the case for the elderly but an early check is advisable.
- Tongue inflammation
Bumpy or swollen sensation in the tongue could be a result of vitamin B12 deficiency. Tongue inflammation is a common sign. You should seek consultation from a medical professional if this persists.
Vitamin B12 for Vegans
A vegan solution for intake of B12 vitamin can be soy milk or fortified soy products. Since the presence of vitamin B12 is mainly in eggs, meat and poultry the intake levels for vegans may be low. This can be amended by taking vitamin B12 tablets or other supplements with medical consultation. Vitamin B12 can also be found in vegetables that grow under the soil so you might not want to wash off the veggies too harshly. Bacterial fungi of the good kind also produce vitamin B12. This is however a murky process so going for standard vegan foods and/or supplements should provide you the necessary B12 intake.