Vitamin B12 is an essential micronutrient that has many uses throughout the body. These include the manufacture of red blood cells, and ensuring proper nerve and brain function.
Vitamin B12, also called cobalamin, is a crystalline compound that is bright red due to its high cobalt content. Its key roles are in red blood cell and nervous system health.
It was first identified as the nutrient needed to treat pernicious anemia, a condition in which the gastric mucosa lacks a protein called intrinsic factor, needed to absorb vitamin B12 in the ileum. As vitamin B12 is needed for red blood cell formation, a deficiency due to malabsorption results in a form of anemia.
The most abundant and readily absorbed sources of Vitamin B12 are animal foods. Vegetarians and vegans may be more at risk of becoming vitamin B12 deficient, and as we age the body’s ability to absorb B-12 from food sources decreases as well.
Vitamin B12 Benefits
Signs of vitamin B12 deficiency are in symptoms of nervous system impairment such as numbness and tingling, pins and needles or a burning sensation. Deficiency is more common in elderly people and can show as anemia, diarrhoea and a beefy red tongue. Impaired mental function in the elderly may respond well to vitamin B12 supplementation.
People with asthma and eczema may need vitamin B12, and addressing a deficiency may also bring improvements in sleep quality, alertness and concentration.
Vitamin B12 Side Effects and Contraindications
Safe when taken as directed.
Vitamin B12 is best taken in conjunction with a B complex supplement, as all the B group vitamins need to be present in the correct ratio for optimal effect.