Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, plays several important roles in the body. Here are some key functions of vitamin B12:
Red blood cell production: Vitamin B12 is essential for the production of healthy red blood cells. It is involved in the synthesis of DNA, which is necessary for the proper maturation of red blood cells in the bone marrow. Without sufficient B12, red blood cells may become enlarged and unable to function properly, leading to a condition called megaloblastic anemia.
Nervous system function: Vitamin B12 is crucial for the maintenance of a healthy nervous system. It plays a role in the production of myelin, a protective sheath that surrounds nerve fibers and facilitates the transmission of nerve impulses. B12 deficiency can lead to nerve damage and neurological symptoms such as tingling or numbness in the hands and feet, muscle weakness, and problems with coordination and balance.
DNA synthesis and cell division: B12 is involved in the synthesis of DNA, the genetic material present in all cells. It helps in the production of new cells and is particularly important for rapidly dividing cells, such as those in the bone marrow and gastrointestinal tract.
Energy production: Vitamin B12 is involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. It helps convert food into energy by assisting in the breakdown of these macronutrients. B12 deficiency can lead to fatigue, weakness, and a lack of energy.
Brain health and cognitive function: Adequate levels of vitamin B12 are important for maintaining brain health and cognitive function. B12 deficiency has been associated with cognitive decline, memory problems, and an increased risk of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Homocysteine regulation: Vitamin B12, along with other B vitamins (B6 and folate), helps regulate homocysteine levels in the blood. High levels of homocysteine are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Adequate B12 levels are necessary to convert homocysteine into methionine, an essential amino acid.
It’s important to note that vitamin B12 is primarily found in animal-based foods, so individuals following a strict vegetarian or vegan diet may be at a higher risk of B12 deficiency and may need to consider supplementation or fortified foods. If you suspect a B12 deficiency or have concerns about your B12 levels, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and guidance.
Many people have vitamin B12 deficiency and need to supplement . Vitamin B12 deficiency can manifest in various symptoms, which can vary in severity and may develop gradually over time. Some common symptoms of B12 deficiency include:
Fatigue and weakness: B12 deficiency can lead to a lack of energy and persistent fatigue. Individuals may feel tired and weak even after getting adequate rest.
Anemia: B12 deficiency can cause megaloblastic anemia, a condition characterized by the production of large, immature red blood cells. Anemia can lead to symptoms such as pale skin, shortness of breath, dizziness, and a rapid heartbeat.
Neurological symptoms: B12 deficiency can affect the nervous system and lead to neurological symptoms. These may include tingling or numbness in the hands and feet (peripheral neuropathy), difficulty with balance and coordination, muscle weakness, and even problems with memory and cognitive function.
Digestive issues: B12 deficiency can impact the gastrointestinal tract and lead to digestive problems. Symptoms may include loss of appetite, weight loss, constipation, and diarrhea.
Mood changes: B12 deficiency has been associated with mood changes and mental health issues. Some individuals may experience depression, irritability, confusion, or even psychosis.
Glossitis: B12 deficiency can cause inflammation of the tongue, known as glossitis. The tongue may appear swollen, red, and smooth, and individuals may experience pain or a burning sensation.
Pale or yellowish skin: B12 deficiency can affect the production of red blood cells, leading to a pale or yellowish complexion.
B12 comes in different forms. Cyanocobalamin, methylcobalamin, and hydroxocobalamin. Cyanocobalamin is the cheapest form. Your body goes through it quickly and it is said it can convert to cyanide in the body. Methylcobalamin is a better form that has been methylated so that you can use it quicker and better. Many people with MTHFR use this form. But those that have MTHFR, and are methyl sensitive, need to use hydroxocobalamin. This is broken down to a form that their body can use. People that are methyl sensitive that use methylated things can have a histamine reaction, this is why hydroxocobalamin is best for them.
It’s important to note that these symptoms can also be caused by other health conditions, so it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment. If you suspect a B12 deficiency or have concerns about your B12 levels, a healthcare professional can perform blood tests to assess your B12 status and provide appropriate guidance.
Because B12 is a water soluble supplement you need to make sure you supplement or eat food rich in it. If you have a health challenge that makes it hard to get enough, be sure and supplement.
Michelle LeSueur BeP, CNC, CSN, CNS, CPT