Vitamin B12 is one of the most important B vitamins. It is important for the body’s metabolism, blood cell formation, and brain function. A deficiency in it can cause a wide range of health problems. Here’s a short guide to vitamin B12 and its benefits:
Vitamin B12 is essential for the body’s energy production processes. The body needs vitamin B12 to be able to use the proteins and fats in food. It is also important for converting carbohydrates into sugar so that they can provide energy. As a result, fatigue is one of the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency.
B12 is a key nutrient for nervous system health. It is important for producing serotonin and dopamine, which are mood-enhancing neurotransmitters. As a result, vitamin B12 can help to prevent and treat depression and anxiety. It can improve focus and memory as well. B12 is necessary for the production of myelin, which is the insulation for nerve fibers. The myelin sheath around nerves enables faster electrical impulse transmission.
Vitamin B12 protects against cardiovascular disease including heart attack and stroke. It does this by lowering the levels of an amino acid in the blood called homocysteine. High homocysteine levels are associated with the development of heart disease.
High homocysteine levels are also associated with age-related macular degeneration. The condition occurs when the center of the retina in the eye degenerates, which causes a loss of central vision. Consuming a diet with sufficient vitamin B12 may keep homocysteine levels low and lower the risk of macular degeneration.
Poor sleep quality is one of the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency. The vitamin is important for melatonin production and causes it to be released earlier in the evening. Melatonin is key to regulating the circadian rhythm.
Being deficient in vitamin B12 has been shown to cause lower sperm count and reduced sperm motility. The problem affects women as well, with B12 being essential to a fetus’s development. Insufficient B12 may result in a miscarriage or premature birth.
At least one study has shown that adults with vitamin B12 deficiency also have below-average bone density. The problem is especially common in women with a significant body of research showing a connection between low B12 levels and osteoporosis.
Sources of Vitamin B12
Meat and other animal products are generally good sources of vitamin B12. Plant foods rarely ever provide it, which means that vegans often need to take supplements. Nutritional yeast is often fortified with vitamin B12, so that can be a good vegan option. The richest sources of vitamin B12 include clams, beef liver, and sockeye salmon.
Supplementing Vitamin B12
There are two forms of vitamin B12 supplements: methylcobalamin and cyanocobalamin. Methylcobalamin is recommended because it is closer to the natural form of the nutrient. Also, research suggests that cyanocobalamin can cause health problems for those with questionable kidney health.
Individuals considering the use of vitamin B12 to treat health problems should first consult a healthcare provider. Increasing consumption of vitamin B12 is recommended mainly for those who do not consume animal products. It is sometimes recommended for all older adults (those over 50) since their ability to absorb it is often impaired. A professional diagnosis is essential to determine whether a change in diet or the use of a supplement is appropriate.