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Vitamin B-12: What you should know

Vitamin B-12 is a vitamin B which is essential. It’s required for healthy nerve tissue, brain function, and red blood cell development. A further name for vitamin B-12 is cobalamin.

Deficiency can occur when the vitamin B-12 levels are too low. This can lead to neurological effects which are permanent. In the United States (U.S.), vitamin B-12 deficiency is commonly estimated between 1.5 and 15 percent of the population.

The article would discuss the roles of vitamin B-12, how a person can realize that they don’t eat much vitamin B-12 and where to get more.

Fast facts on vitamin B-12

  • Vitamin B-12 is important for brain function the synthesis of red blood cells.
  • Deficiency of vitamin B-12 can lead to neurological difficulties and anemia.
  • People over the age of 14 should consume more than 2.4 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin B-12 daily.
  • Vitamin B-12 is naturally available in meats, but people who do not eat meat, such as vegans, can obtain vitamin B-12 in supplement form.

What is vitamin B-12?

Vitamin B-12 diets
Vitamin B-12 is vital for red blood cell production and mental processes.

As with all other B-vitamins, vitamin B-12 is a water-soluble vitamin.

That means it can dissolve and pass through the bloodstream in water. The human body can store up to four years ‘worth of vitamin B-12. Some vitamin B-12 which is excess or excessive is excreted in urine.

Vitamin B-12 is the largest vitamin and the most complicated in structure. It occurs naturally in meat products, and can only be produced industrially through synthesis of bacterial fermentation.


Naturally, vitamin B-12 is present in animal products, such as fish, meat, eggs and dairy products. Usually this does not occur in plant foods.

Good dietary sources of vitamin B-12 include:

  • beef
  • pork
  • ham
  • poultry
  • lamb
  • fish, especially haddock and tuna
  • dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt
  • some nutritional yeast products
  • eggs

Vitamin B-12 fortifies certain varieties of soya milk and breakfast cereals.

Maintaining a good diet and having adequate quantities of nutrients is often easier before active treatment is needed. With a balanced diet the deficiency effects are easily prevented.


Vitamin B-12 is essential to normal brain and nervous system function. It is also involved in red blood cell creation, and helps to build and control DNA.

Every cell’s metabolism in the body depends on vitamin B-12, since it plays a part in fatty acid synthesis and energy production. Vitamin B-12 allows for energy release by helping the human body absorb folic acid.

Every minute the human body is producing millions of red blood cells. Without vitamin B-12 these cells can’t properly multiply. Red blood cell production decreases if the vitamin B-12 levels are too small. Anemia can occur when the count of red blood cells decreases.

Intake requirements

In the U.S., the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends consuming 2.4 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin B-12 a day for teenagers and adults over the age of 14. Pregnant women should definitely consume 2.6 mcg and lactating women should consume 2.8 mcg.

Excessive consumption of vitamin B-12 has demonstrated no toxic or adverse properties. However, people are still recommended to talk to their doctor before they start taking supplements.

Some medicines can interfere with vitamin B-12. That include metformin, proton pump inhibitors, and h2 receptor agonists, which are commonly used for peptic ulcer. These medications can all interfere with absorption of vitamin B-12. Antibiotic chloramphenicol, or chloromycetine can also interfere with the development of red blood cells in people who take supplements.

Deficiency symptoms

Deficiency of vitamin B-12 occurs when the body is not receiving enough vitamin B-12.

It can cause permanent and potentially serious harm, especially to the nervous system and brain.

Even slightly lower than average vitamin B-12 levels can cause symptoms of deficiency, such as depression, anxiety, memory loss and fatigue. Such signs alone, however, are not precise enough to diagnose deficiency of vitamin B-12.

Certain vitamin B-12 deficiency signs include constipation, appetite loss and weight loss.

If the symptoms worsen, they may include physiological changes in the hands and feet, such as numbness and tingling. Some people can struggle to maintain balance.

If the deficiency is left untreated, infants who lack vitamin B-12 can exhibit irregular movements, such as face tremors, as well as reflex problems, feeding difficulties, agitation and subsequent growth issues.

Deficiency in vitamin B-12 poses a significant chance of irreversible damage to the nerves and brains. Many people with inadequate vitamin B-12 have an elevated risk of developing depression, mania and dementia.

Lack of vitamin B-12 can also contribute to anemia. The most common anemia signs are tiredness, shortness of breath and an irregular heartbeat. Anemia sufferers can also experience:

  • a sore mouth or tongue
  • weight loss
  • pale or yellowing skin
  • Diarrhea
  • menstrual problems

Vitamin B-12 deficiency also leaves people more susceptible to the effects of infections.

Who is at risk?

Vegans pose a risk of deficiency of vitamin B-12, as their diet lacks foods derived from animal sources. Pregnancy and lactation can worsen vegan deficiencies. Plant-sourced foods lack enough cobalamine to ensure long-term safety.

People suffering from pernicious anemia can lack vitamin B-12. Pernicious anemia is a blood-affecting, autoimmune condition. There is not enough intrinsic factor (IF), a protein in the stomach that allows the body to absorb vitamin B-12, in patients with this disorder.

Many groups at risk include people with problems with the small intestine, such as an adult whose small intestine has been surgically shortened. We may not be able to fully consume the cobalamin. People with Crohn’s disease are said to be at risk, but researchers maintain that there is a lack of evidence to confirm this.

Gastritis, celiac disease, and inflammatory bowel disease can result in a deficiency, as nutrient absorption is diminished by these conditions.

Persons with chronic alcoholism can lack vitamin B-12, so their bodies can not absorb nutrients efficiently either.

People with metformin diabetes are recommended to control their vitamin B-12 levels. Metformin may minimize vitamin B-12 uptake.

Treatment requires doses of the vitamin B-12. People who have nutrient absorption issues must undergo a vitamin B-12 injection.


Some people fail to absorb vitamin B-12 from food sources and may need to take supplements.

This includes older adults, patients with pernicious anemia, and those with achlorhydria or intestinal disorders may experience food-absorbing problems with vitamin B-12.

Additives can be administered by mouth or in a nasal spray. For other cases of deficiency, though, oral supplements don’t help. Under these cases, it is possible to administer vitamin B-12.

Vegans should take supplements to prevent deficiencies, because the vegan diet excludes meat products that naturally include B-12. That is especially important during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Various B-12 supplements are available to purchase in health food stores and online.

Side effects

The side effects of vitamin B-12 taking are very minimal. It is not known to be extremely toxic in high quantities, and even 1000-mcg levels are not known to be dangerous.

Since 2001, when a individual in Germany reported rosacea as a result of a B-12 supplement, no reports of an adverse reaction to B-12 have exist. Cases of acne triggered with B-12 were also recorded.

Cyanocobalamin is an injectable version of the drug containing traces of a toxic substance called cyanide. As a result some questions about its potential effects have been raised. Many fruits and vegetables, however, contain such residues, and this is not considered a major risk to health.

However, this form of medication is not approved for humans with kidney disease.

Chukwuebuka Martins

Chukwuebuka Martins is a writer, researcher, and health enthusiast who specializes in human physiology. He takes great pleasure in penning informative articles on many aspects of physical wellness, which he then thoroughly enjoys sharing to the general public.

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