Vitamin B12, also called cobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin that has a key role in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system, and the formation of red blood cells. It is one of eight B vitamins. It is involved in the metabolism of every cell of the human body, especially affecting DNA synthesis, fatty acid and amino acid metabolism. Humans are incapable of producing vitamin B12. Some substantial sources of B12 include animal products (shellfish, meat), fortified food products, and dietary supplements.
Low vitamin B12 blood levels occur when the body does not get or is unable to absorb the amount of vitamin that the body needs. There is a higher incidence of low B12 in:
- Many people over age 50 lose the ability to absorb vitamin B12 from foods.
- People who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet should try to eat vitamin B12-fortified foods or talk to their health care provider about taking B12 supplements.
- People who have had gastrointestinal surgery, such as weight loss surgery, lose the ability to absorb vitamin B12.
- People who have digestive disorders, such as Celiac or Crohn's Disease, may not absorb enough vitamin B12.
- People taking Metformin, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), and alcohol since they can decrease B12 absorption.
Low levels of B12 can cause:
- Anemia and pernicious anemia
- Loss of balance
- Numbness or tingling in the arms and legs
A recent study published in the health journal Neurology suggests that people who consume foods rich in vitamin B12 may reduce their risk of Alzheimer's disease in their later years. Supplementing vitamin B12 can be beneficial if you have a difficult time consistently including foods in your diet that are rich in B12, or if you have a condition (or high activity level) which can deplete B12 from your body. Not only is vitamin B12 essential in boosting brain power, but it is also needed for the process of converting carbohydrates, fats, and proteins from food into energy. Vitamin B12 also helps form healthy blood cells, and may aid in the prevention of heart disease. Supplementing vitamin B12 is very cheap and easy. There are two common types of vitamin B12 which are marketed, Cyanocobalamin and Methylcobalamin.
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