Vitamin B12: Important for the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system
• Helps with the formation of blood
• Maintains healthy nerve cells and red blood cells
• Involved in the metabolism of every cell of the body
• Improves low blood pressure
What is Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B-12 is a vitamin, which is important for the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system and for the formation of blood. It is normally involved in the metabolism of every cell of the body, especially affecting DNA synthesis and regulation, but also fatty acid synthesis and energy production.
Vitamin B12 is an essential water-soluble vitamin that is commonly found in a variety of foods such as fish, shellfish, meat, and dairy products. Vitamin B12 is frequently used in combination with other B vitamins in a vitamin B complex formulation. It helps maintain healthy nerve cells and red blood cells and is also needed to make DNA, the genetic material in all cells. Vitamin B12 is bound to the protein in food. Hydrochloric acid in the stomach releases B12 from protein during digestion.
The human body stores several years' worth of vitamin B12, so nutritional deficiency of this vitamin is extremely rare. Elderly are the most at risk. However, deficiency can result from being unable to use vitamin B12. Inability to absorb vitamin B12 from the intestinal tract can be caused by a disease known as pernicious anemia. Additionally, strict vegetarians or vegans who are not taking in proper amounts of B12 are also prone to a deficiency state.
Historically, vitamin B-12 was discovered from its relationship to the disease pernicious anemia, which was eventually discovered to result from an effective lack of this vitamin due to problems with the mechanisms in the body which normally absorb it. Many other more subtle kinds of vitamin B12 deficiency, and biochemical effects from them, have since been elucidated.
How does Vitamin B12 work?
Vitamin B-12 is normally involved in the metabolism of every cell of the body, especially affecting the DNA synthesis and regulation but also fatty acid synthesis and energy production. Studies have shown that a deficiency of vitamin B12 can lead to abnormal neurologic and psychiatric symptoms. These symptoms may include: ataxia (shaky movements and unsteady gait), muscle weakness, spasticity, incontinence, hypotension (low blood pressure), vision problems, dementia, psychoses, and mood disturbances. Researchers report that these symptoms may occur when vitamin B12 levels are just slightly lower than normal and are considerably above the levels normally associated with anemia. Once released, B12 combines with a substance called intrinsic factor (IF) before it is absorbed into the bloodstream.
Who needs to take Vitamin B12 and what are deficiency symptoms?
People at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency include strict vegetarians, elderly people, and people with increased vitamin B12 requirements associated with pregnancy, thyrotoxicosis, hemolytic anemia, hemorrhage, malignancy, liver or kidney disease. Administering vitamin B12 orally, intramuscularly, or intranasally is effective for preventing and treating dietary vitamin B12 deficiency.
Signs, symptoms, and health problems associated with vitamin B12 deficiency include anemia, fatigue, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Deficiency also can lead to neurological changes such as numbness and tingling in the hands and feet. Additional symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency are difficulty in maintaining balance, depression, confusion, dementia, poor memory, and soreness of the mouth or tongue.