B12 vitamin is a water-soluble vitamin that plays a vital role in many functions of the body, such as DNA synthesis, energy production, nerve system health, red blood cell formation and brain functions. B12 vitamin is found in many foods, especially animal-derived proteins. However, some people may have difficulty absorbing or getting enough of this vitamin, which can lead to various health problems. In this article, you will learn about the benefits of B12 vitamin, the foods that contain it, and how to prevent or treat B12 deficiency.
What are the Benefits of B12 Vitamin?
B12 vitamin has many benefits for your health, such as:
- It helps to prevent anemia by producing red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body. Anemia can cause symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath and pale skin.
- It supports the nerve system by maintaining the myelin sheath that covers the nerve fibers and enables the transmission of signals. Damage to the myelin sheath can cause symptoms such as numbness, tingling, balance problems and vision loss.
- It aids in DNA synthesis and cell division, which are essential for growth and repair of tissues. DNA damage can increase the risk of cancer and other diseases.
- It boosts the immune system by stimulating the production of white blood cells that fight infections. Low levels of B12 can impair the immune response and make you more susceptible to illnesses.
- It enhances the brain functions by regulating the levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and melatonin. These neurotransmitters affect mood, sleep, memory and cognition. B12 deficiency can cause symptoms such as depression, anxiety, insomnia and dementia.
What are the Sources of B12 Vitamin?
B12 vitamin is mainly found in animal-derived foods, such as:
- Red Meat: Beef and lamb are rich sources of B12 vitamin. They also contain liver, which has a high amount of B12. However, red meat can also raise blood cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease. Therefore, red meat consumption should be limited and lean cuts should be preferred.
- Eggs: Eggs are a good source of protein and B2 vitamins as well as B12 vitamin. Especially egg yolk is a good source of B12 vitamin. The absorption of B12 vitamin from egg yolk is easier. When consuming eggs, eat both whites and yolks instead of separating them. A medium-sized egg contains about 25-30% of the daily B12 vitamin requirement while 60% of the daily cholesterol requirement.
- Milk and Dairy Products: Milk, cheese, yogurt and kefir are foods that contain a lot of B12 vitamin. These foods are also rich in protein and calcium, A vitamin, D vitamin, zinc, potassium and choline. Research shows that the body absorbs B12 vitamin from milk and dairy products better than from meat and eggs.
- Fish: Sardines, salmon, trout, tuna and mackerel are some of the fish that are sources of B12 vitamin. They also provide omega-3 fatty acids that have anti-inflammatory and cardiovascular benefits. Fish consumption should be at least twice a week for optimal health.
- Poultry: Chicken and turkey are also sources of B12 vitamin. They are leaner than red meat and have less saturated fat and cholesterol. They also provide protein, iron, zinc and selenium.
- Fortified Foods: Some plant-based foods are fortified with B12 vitamin to increase their nutritional value. These include cereals, breads, soy products, nutritional yeast and plant milks. However, not all fortified foods have the same amount or type of B12 vitamin. Therefore, it is important to read the labels carefully and choose products that have adequate amounts of active forms of B12 vitamin.
How to Prevent or Treat B12 Deficiency?
B12 deficiency can cause various symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, forgetfulness, depression, anemia, nerve damage and cognitive decline. B12 deficiency can be caused by various factors, such as:
- Poor diet: Not eating enough foods that contain B12 vitamin or eating foods that interfere with B12 absorption can lead to deficiency. For example, alcohol, coffee, tea and tobacco can reduce the absorption of B12 vitamin. Some plant compounds such as phytates and oxalates can also bind to B12 vitamin and make it unavailable for the body.
- Malabsorption: Some conditions can impair the absorption of B12 vitamin from the digestive tract. These include pernicious anemia, which is an autoimmune disease that destroys the cells that produce intrinsic factor, a substance that is necessary for B12 absorption. Other conditions that can affect B12 absorption are celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, gastritis, gastric bypass surgery and pancreatic insufficiency.
- Medications: Some medications can interfere with B12 metabolism or absorption. These include metformin, which is used for diabetes; proton pump inhibitors, which are used for acid reflux; antibiotics, which can alter the gut flora; and oral contraceptives, which can increase the demand for B12 vitamin.
- Age: As people get older, their ability to absorb B12 vitamin decreases. This is because the production of stomach acid and intrinsic factor declines with age. Older adults may also have less appetite or eat less varied foods that contain B12 vitamin.
- Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Pregnant and breastfeeding women have increased needs for B12 vitamin to support the growth and development of their babies. If they do not get enough B12 vitamin from their diet or supplements, they may develop deficiency and pass it on to their babies.
To prevent or treat B12 deficiency, you should:
- Eat a balanced diet that includes foods that are rich in B12 vitamin. You can also choose fortified foods that have added B12 vitamin.
- Take supplements if you are at risk of deficiency or have symptoms of deficiency. You can take oral supplements or injections depending on your preference and medical condition. The recommended daily intake of B12 vitamin for adults is 2.4 micrograms, but some people may need higher doses to correct their deficiency. You should consult your doctor before taking any supplements and follow their advice on dosage and frequency.
- Monitor your blood levels of B12 vitamin regularly if you have a condition that affects its absorption or metabolism. You should also check your levels if you have symptoms of deficiency or take medications that interfere with B12 vitamin. Your doctor can order a blood test to measure your serum or plasma levels of B12 vitamin and determine if you need treatment.
Summary and Conclusion
B12 vitamin is a water-soluble vitamin that is essential for many functions of the body. It is found in many animal-derived foods and some fortified plant-based foods. It has many benefits for your health, such as preventing anemia, supporting nerve system, boosting immune system and enhancing brain functions. B12 deficiency can cause various symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, forgetfulness, depression, anemia, nerve damage and cognitive decline. B12 deficiency can be caused by poor diet, malabsorption, medications, age, pregnancy and breastfeeding. To prevent or treat B12 deficiency, you should eat a balanced diet that includes foods that are rich in B12 vitamin, take supplements if needed and monitor your blood levels regularly.