Vitamin B12 Guide and And The Best Vitamin b12 Supplements

What is Vitamin B12

First things first, what is vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12, a.k.a cobalamin is a water-soluble vitamin that plays a direct role in keeping the nervous system and blood system healthy not to mention help create the DNA in all cells.

The number 12 in for this vitamin gives it less notoriety than its fellow vitamins A, C, D. Initially vitamin B was thought to be one vitamin, but research later concluded that there was in fact 8 distinctly different vitamins that often coexisted which resulted in B12 being a subset of the B vitamins.

The vitamin also has the notoriously bad reputation of being difficult to absorb into the body. Therefore, it is easy for otherwise healthy people to become deficient in this vitamin. B12 deficiencies can occur at any time and at any age. However, they are easily detected and treated, especially if caught in time.

The supplementation of vitamin B12 often involves Vitamin B12 shots or supplements. These methods are often considered to be much more efficient at getting the nutrient into the body than through the digestive system. Taking multi-vitamins containing vitamin B-12 is ineffectual because they typically contain too little of the vitamin. In order for enough of it to be absorbed into the body, the supplements must contain much higher amounts of B12 than is recommended for daily consumption.

If you are concerned with vitamin B12 deficiencies, symptoms of the issue, how to get more B12 and what the body uses B12 for, it is important to educate yourself. This is especially true if you have already been diagnosed with a B12 deficiency or been told that you belong to a high-risk group of people for this problem. Get education on your side, so you know what to expect, what to look for and what to do.

Overview of Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, which binds to protein sources in the food we eat. Stomach acid causes the B12 to be released from the food during the digestion process. Following its release, it combines with another substance in the body known as an intrinsic factor (or IF).

The combination of the vitamin B12 and the IF makes absorption by the intestinal tract possible. Because the absorption of the vitamin is done in the intestinal tract, those with gastrointestinal disorders often have problems with B12 deficiencies.

The body does not produce vitamin B12; therefore it must be ingested through the diet or introduced into the body with supplements. Some good sources of vitamin B12 in the diet include:

    • fortified cereals
    • shellfish like clams and molluscs
    • organ meats
    • certain fish, like trout, salmon, haddock and tuna
    • lean beef
    • milk
    • yogurt

Some people may have problems with absorbing the vitamins into their bodies from their diet. Others may have beliefs that lead them to not consume these B12-rich food sources, which tend to be primarily animal products. For these and other reasons, many people require additional supplementation of B12 beyond diet.

There are certain categories of individuals with lifestyles, illnesses or other factors, which predispose them to having problems with B12 deficiencies. Some of the people who are at high risk of developing vitamin B12 deficiencies include:

    • vegetarians
    • the elderly
    • former weight loss surgery patients
    • people with gastrointestinal diseases and disorders
    • people taking certain prescription medications on a long-term basis

There are a variety of signs and symptoms commonly seen as a result of a vitamin B12 deficiency. If you or someone you know are at high-risk for such a deficiency, it is important to look out for symptoms.

Seek a doctor’s advice if you notice some of the less serious symptoms listed below. They are often precursors to the more serious symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency. The symptoms include:

    • anemia
    • weakness
    • fatigue
    • loss of appetite
    • weight loss
    • constipation
    • neurological symptoms like tingling and numbness in the extremities
    • problems with balance
    • depression
    • dementia
    • vision problems
    • confusion and poor memory
    • sore mouth and tongue

 

Vitamin B12 deficiencies have also been linked to a variety of other illnesses including asthma, multiple sclerosis, diabetic neuropathy, tinnitus, cancer, stroke, heart disease, osteoporosis, low sperm counts and AIDS.

Luckily such a deficiency is easily avoidable and treatable, provided you are aware of the problem and are on top of your health.

Even if you do not fall into one of the high-risk categories for vitamin B12 deficiencies, you may still want to have your B12 levels checked occasionally as a part of your annual physicals. Statistics have shown that such deficiencies can strike people of any age.

History of Vitamin B12

The discovery of vitamin B12 is rather recent, having only been made in the 1940’s. It was discovered because of the successful treatment of the disorder Pernicious Anemia (an illness caused by inefficient absorption of vitamin B12) with high doses of liver juice.

The active ingredient in the liver juice turned out to be vitamin B12, also referred to as cobalimin. Vitamin B12 also contains cobalt, where the name cobalimin comes from.

There has been much speculation, especially by vegetarians, that B12 does not need to come from animal products and that there are other plant based sources available. Despite the popularity of certain products in the past based on those beliefs, there is still no legitimacy to such claims.

Vitamin B12, as with many vitamins our bodies use and need, is used by the body in a variety of ways:

    • maintenance of red blood cells
    • production of DNA, which is the genetic information in cells
    • for the effective functioning of the brain and nervous system

The benefits of Vitamin B12 are that it allows for the proper functioning of your body, keeps your mind strong and clear, allows freedom of movement and properly functioning metabolic processes. Every part of our body is affected by B12.

Why Do We Need Vitamin B12?

FACT: Vitamin B12 can only be manufactured by bacteria.

With so many daily recommended intakes thrown at us, it is tough knowing exactly why we need to get each and every vitamin and mineral ever discovered. Vitamin B12 though, does pose some long term consequences which need to be taken seriously.

But, really what is vitamin B12? Vitamin B12 is the largest and most complex molecule currently known to mankind. Knowing what happens when we have a deficiency can be the motivation we need to ensure we are absorbing enough of this vital vitamin.

Short Term Consequences

While vitamin B12 stores can last up to one year, symptoms of low vitamin B12 include anemia, mania, fatigue, depression and even psychosis has known to be a result of a deficiency.

Long Term Consequences

While a short term deficiency leaves no long lasting consequences if vitamin b12 stores are not immediately increased long term vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to severe consequences.

Long term consequences of vitamin B12 deficiency generally take at least five years to take effect but when we are talking about permanent damage to parts of the brain and the nervous system it is not something to be taken lightly.

Why is Vitamin B12 Good for You?

Cobalamin, cyanocobalamin or vitamin B12 is one of the most important types of B-complex vitamin, and it’s often used in combination with other B-complex vitamins.

This vitamin has an important role in proper functioning of the nervous system, and it’s essential for immunity and formation of DNA in the body.

It helps in the process of formation, maintenance and repair of various cells and in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease or memory loss.

It regulates formation of red blood cells and helps your body use iron, provides proper digestion, food absorption, fat and carbohydrate metabolism.

It is used to treat pernicious anemia and sickle-cell anemia, to prevent breast cancer and liver and kidney diseases.

It also influences positive mood and emotional balance, lowers risk of stroke and heart disease, provides you restful sleep, healthy skin, bones, hair and muscles.

B12 is good for memory; it improves brain cell function and brain health, eliminates brain fog and helps you to remain mentally sharp.

Due to vitamin B12 your nervous system will be healthy and nerves will communicate in an optimal manner.

When your blood levels of vitamin B12 are low, you may experience symptoms related to mental fatigue, mood changes, sleep difficulties, lack of energy and occasional indigestion.

When a deficiency of vitamin b12 occurs, your body is unable to convert fatty acids into energy (vitamin B12 plays a major role in that process) and you constantly feel a lack of energy.

Why is vitamin b12 good for those who work out?

Vitamin B12 won’t take off pounds itself, but it gives your body energy to work out. It also boosts metabolism and provides better digestion.

Thanks to it, you will burn some calories by sitting and doing nothing, but if you increase your exercise level, you may reach your desired weight. All you need is motivation and vitamin B12.

Vitamin B12 and Depression – Are they related?

There are millions of people suffering from depression and if you are also someone that is dealing with it, then you know how bad it can get. Yet, if those there are a lot of pills out there that one can use, most of the times, it would do better for the patient if he or she will delve into taking B vitamins.

There are many B vitamins available out there including B1, B2, B3, B12 and so forth and each of these vitamins is specific for a certain function of the brain. It has been concluded through many studies that Vitamin B12 and Depression are related.

For instance, the B1 vitamin is required by the human body in order to facilitate nerve stimulation and our metabolism. If you are someone that has a lack in this type of vitamin, you will suffer from mood swings, nightmares, insomnia, anxiety and you will not be able to rest properly. The brain makes use of this vitamin very much and using it, it converts the blood sugar into energy.

If you have a deficiency in the B2 vitamin, you will suffer from personality changes, aggressive personality and so forth. If there is a B3 deficiency that you are suffering from, you will be in for anxiety and if you have a major lack in it, you might be dealing with psychosis and even dementia.

The B5 vitamin is required extensively by the brain in order to form the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. If you have a deficiency in the B5 vitamin, you will be likely to suffer from depression, certain allergies and fatigue.

As such, if you experience some of the symptoms described above, you will need to check in with your doctor immediately. He / she will be able to diagnose if you have any urgent problem that need medical attention.

So is there a link between Vitamin B12 and Depression? There certainly is!

Vitamin B12 deficiency and How to recognize it

If you feel tired or weak, moody or depressed, your nervous system functioning and eye health are less-than-optimal you may suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency. There are some more symptoms such as: loss of appetite and unintended weight loss, bad memory, constipation and gas, nervousness, premature grey hair or digestive issues.

If there is a deficiency maybe you won’t solve a problem by eating foods rich in B12. You may need supplements of vitamin B12 because your body may be unable to absorb this vitamin from food (even if you eat plenty of meat, eggs, kidneys, milk products or seafood you can still have low levels of B12).

Intrinsic factor is a protein which helps vitamin B12 to be absorbed. If you have less-than-optimal gastrointestinal health, or you’re over 50 you may need supplements with B12.

Symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency

Early identification of the symptoms allows us to react in time and eliminate the possible health complications at their initial stages. Symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency include dementia and Alzheimer’s-like symptoms.

In some cases, the diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease may in fact just be a case of vitamin deficiency and can be treated easily. It is important to bear in mind that there are many other symptoms to be watchful for, which will present themselves long before such symptoms as dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Aging causes changes in the body’s ability to absorb vitamin B12, therefore it is very important to consider supplements or at least make a conscious effort to eat B12-rich foods and monitor your levels of the vitamin.

The early B12 deficiency symptoms are:

    • fatigue
    • loss of appetite or nausea
    • menstruation problems in women

Vitamin B12 Deficiency Full Symptoms

Feeling tired and can’t concentrate?

When we start talking about the symptoms of B12 deficiency we have to mention its relationship with pernicious anemia. This disease causes the parietal cells of the stomach to be destroyed.

And now you may ask – How is this connected with the deficiency of Vitamin B12? Well, the function of parietal cells is to secrete intrinsic factor which is very important for the normal absorption of vitamin B12.

This means that low intrinsic factor leads to vitamin B12 deficiency. It is interesting to know that the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency don’t appear immediately, it usually takes several months or even a year for the symptoms to start developing. This is mainly because vitamin B12 is stored in our body.

    • Anemia (pernicious anemia)
    • A sense of fatigue and weakness
    • Constipation
    • loss of appetite and weight loss
    • numbness and tingling in the arms or legs
    • inflamed and shiny looking sore tongue
    • digestive problems
    • frequent infections of the upper-respiratory tract
    • depression and confusion
    • poor concentration and memory or memory loss
    • behavioral and mood changes

Please note that the lack of vitamin B12 is most positively detected by blood tests or by the Schilling test.

Vitamin B12 is very necessary in the development and maintenance of the brain, blood cells and the nervous system. B12 deficiencies in early childhood can cause permanent neurological damage. Symptoms can onset quickly and can progress rapidly to a serious condition.

Therefore children whose mothers are strict vegetarians should take vitamin B12 supplements to avoid such issues.

Vitamin B12, B6 and folic acid have been found to reduce homocysteine levels. Higher than normal levels have of homocysteine have been associated with higher risk of heart disease and also with the onset of dementia. There is no evidence showing that B12 supplements can reverse damage that has already been done, however such supplements will lower homocysteine levels which may in turn lower your risk for those illnesses.

For those suffering from the illness Pernicious Anemia, which is caused by the body’s inability to absorb vitamin B12, the standard treatment is (thankfully) no longer high doses of liver juice, given orally. B12 supplements are the now the preferred treatment.

Shots can be given monthly, B12 patches applied regularly or extremely high doses of oral supplements can be taken. This disease is now very easily treatable, thanks to the discovery of vitamin B12 and the advancement of technology in providing better ways to administer it.

Who is at risk of Vitamin B12 Deficiency?

As in any other disease or condition there are some groups of people which are at greater risk of being affected due to many different reasons.

This is also the case with vitamin B12 deficit, so the following groups of people have greater chances to experience the vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms if they don’t do anything to prevent it.

People affected with Pernicious anemia

There is a close connection between pernicious anemia and vitamin b12 deficiency. One of the important roles of Vitamin B12 is in the development and functioning of red blood cells.

This type of anemia can be described as a reduction of the number of red blood cells caused by the inability of our body to absorb the vitamin B12 from the intestines. This means that the Vitamin B12 absorption problems directly affect the creation of red blood cells and the lower number of red blood cells leads to anemia.

Vegans

Vegans are prone to vitamin b12 deficiency mainly because of their eating habits, i.e. animal products are best vitamin B12 sources. For that reason they have to use vitamin B12 supplements or consume B12 fortified foods.

Adults over 50

One third of adults over 50 years old suffer from atrophic gastritis. This process reduces the ability of the body to absorb vitamin B12 from natural sources. However, vitamin B12 supplements are synthetic and atrophic gastritis doesn’t affect their absorption so they have to be included in the treatment.

Other groups of people are people having gastrointestinal problems (Celiac or Crohn’s disease) or those who have had some type of gastrointestinal surgery.

Foods rich with vitamin B12

Since vitamin B12 is important for one’s body the question that will now need to be answered is, where will one get vitamin B12 from? The best source of all body requirements that are related to diet is naturally occurring foods. Foods high in vitamin B12 are listed in the list of naturally occurring foods.

Although there are other sources of vitamin B12, foods rich with vitamin B12 are the best choice, though with age the absorption of this vitamin reduces. When age catches up with someone then visiting the doctor should be considered.

Human choice in food is based on two things; plants and animals, both these are sources of Vitamin B12. Foods high in vitamin B12 that are animal based can be chosen from poultry, pork, beef, fish, sea based foods and mutton among many others.  Animal products are typically the best source of foods rich with vitamin B12 because animal products have a bacterium that manufactures the vitamin. The animal products that one can get vitamin B12 include;

    • liver,
    • caviar,
    • tuna,
    • sardines,
    • turkey,
    • octopus,
    • beef,
    • lamb,
    • cheese,
    • yogurts,
    • milk,
    • chicken,
    • eggs,
    • clams,
    • oysters,
    • mussels,
    • crab

Plants that are vitamin B12 foods rely on yeast and microorganisms to manufacture the vitamin. The plant oriented sources can be found in the market easily.

They include; nuts, oats, bananas, potatoes, avocados, peas, beans and soy. Some of these foods are processed such that one can also get the vitamin from breakfast cereals fortified soy milk and tofu.

Fortified nutritional yeast can also be a source of vitamin B12.  Nuts as a source of vitamin B12 foods includes all types of the nut family; ground nuts, coconuts etc. peas and beans are legumes and this means that also legumes have some amounts of vitamin B12 in them.

How to Get Vitamin B12: 3 Foods That Aid Absorbtion

FACT: Between 1.5% and 15% of people suffer from a lack of Vitamin B12.

Do you know that feeling when you want our body to do something, but due to factors beyond our control, we cannot get our body to cooperate with us. While many people think that a deficiency only occurs in vitamin b12 for vegans, this is not true. Vitamin B12 is a little bit more complicated…sometimes we simply cannot absorb the vitamin into our bloodstream.

Vitamin B12 is absorbed into the body in two steps:

  1. Hydrochloric acid separates vitamin B12 from a protein within a food source.
  2. Vitamin B12 teams up with a different protein, intrinsic factor which is made by the stomach before being absorbed by the body.

This second step can prevent absorption due to an autoimmune disease, pernicious anemia. As people age, the amount that your gut can absorb decreases which can cause a deficiency.

Best Way To Get Vitamin 12 for Vegetarians?

Now that we know why we may fall short of the vitamin B12 daily requirement, let’s look into how to get vitamin B12 in fortified foods.

      1. Vitamin B12 Fortified Breakfast Cereals

  Do you skip breakfast in the mornings? If so, you have no doubt heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day for 101 reasons. The 102nd reason is that many fortified cereals contain vitamin B12 which is a great way to ensure you get a small amount first thing in the morning. Three cereals that you can find in most supermarket stores containing vitamin B12 are:

    • Kellogg’s All Bran Original
    • General Mill’s Total Cornflakes
    • Nature’s Path Optimum

    Be sure to check the packaging to see the amount per serving as it can vary country to country.

      1. Plant Based Milk Products

 Traditional cow’s milk has been receiving a lot of negative press as of late which is contributing to the increase in availability of alternate options. Plant based milks include, rice, soy and almond milk most of which are fortified with vitamin B12 in them.

A good way to incorporate plant based milks in your diet if you do not eat breakfast is in fruit shakes. Again, to be sure, check that the brand contains vitamin B12 before you buy.

      1. Tofu

 For those who prefer not to eat a large quantity of meat, tofu is a great substitute. Not only does it contain high vitamin B12 content, it is a great protein source too.

Taking Vitamin B12 in pill form.

If you step into any pharmacy and ask for vitamin B12 pills, they should be able to assist you right away. They are relatively cheap and are quick to take, but we all know how forgetful we can be.

Taking pills is frustrating as a deficiency is not a short term life or death situation as it is not on the top of your mind, and when you do remember to take them you never have water nearby!

Vitamin B12 injections

Vitamin B12 injections are readily available and are a commonly prescribed by doctors. This route ensures that you will receive the vitamin b12 directly into your blood stream.

Vitamin B12 Injections Benefits

Cobalamin or vitamin B12 is one of the most important water soluble vitamins. Deficiency of this vitamin is very often because it is not easy to digest it and it’s not ready for digestion when we intake food that contains it (for example meat, eggs, milk…).

Condition of people that have pernicious anemia (condition when the body cannot absorb the b12 vitamin from food) can be stabilized by taking vitamin b12 shots. These shots do not provide your body vitamin b12 – they just provide it chance to absorb needed vitamin b12 from food. So, taking shots without eating food rich in b12 will have no effect on pernicious anemia.

Vitamin B12 injections benefits for your health

You may wonder how vitamin B12 shots work. They improve blood cell production, then oxygen transport is more efficient and good supply of oxygen creates better general health. It also provides boost of energy and keep the cardiovascular system healthy.

It prevents blood coagulation and degenerative disease like atherosclerosis, stroke, hypertension and heart attack. It is good for central nervous system to; it keeps it healthy and improves mental processes and memory. Finally, it can beat depression because it creates sense of being well and happy.

Vitamin B12 injections benefits for those who work out

Vitamin b12 is often nicknamed the “energy vitamin” because it facilitates metabolism of fats by turning it into energy source. It is true that this vitamin promotes those who take it to do more exercises and provides some extra energy.

It doesn’t directly help with losing weight but if you work out it helps you to build muscle and it improves metabolism. In combination with proper diet and exercise vitamin b12 can help you to achieve desired weight.

Vitamin B12 injections benefits and side effects

There are several common side effects of vitamin b12 injections: headache, nausea or mild diarrhea. If any of this occurs you should stop taking shots and side effects will pass by time. Y

ou can also choose which way of taking vitamin b12 injections is best for you: oral, sub-lingual or nasal. You should have on mind that injection has to be struck very deeply in the muscle and that will cost you a lot of pain.

There are some more side effects that are pretty uncommon: rapid beating of the heart, muscle pain, chest pain, heart palpitations and weight gain. If any of this happens you should consult injections physician – maybe medicine is not compatible with the person or the dosage is not right.

It can also happen that allergy occurs and it may vary from skin breakouts to difficulty in breathing.

Note: As with any injection, vitamin B12 injection side effects may result. If you suffer from any of these, it’s important to let a doctor know ASAP, even if we hate going back to the doctors, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

More common side effects include:

    • Mild Diarrhea
    • Upset Stomach
    • Nausea
    • Tingling at Site of Injection
    • Headaches
    • Joint Pain

    While rare, the more serious side effects include:

    • Rapid Heartbeat or Palpitations
    • Muscle Cramps, Pains or Weakness
    • A Feeling of Thirst with Frequent Urination
    • Rapid Weight Gain
    • Difficulty Breathing and Swallowing
    • Redness on Skin, Rashes, Itching

Many of the short term vitamin B12 deficiency systems can be easily confused with other problems, even just general sickness. There are no ways to ensure you are not efficient at home, the most accurate method of knowing is a blood or urine test at the doctors call the Methylmalonic Acid Test (MMA).

Recommended Daily Allowance of Vitamin B12

The recommended daily allowance of Vitamin B12 varies by age; and for women, by whether they are pregnant or lactating. These allowances are set by the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine, after much study and research. Below is the list of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin B12 for everyone:

Adult men and women over age 18 2.4 micrograms per day
Men and women aged 14 to 18 2.4 micrograms per day
Pregnant women aged 14 and older 2.6 micrograms per day
Lactating women aged 14 and older 2.8 micrograms per day
Children aged 9 to 13 1.8 micrograms per day
Children aged 4 to 8 1.2 micrograms per day
Children aged 1 to 3 0.9 micrograms per day
Babies aged 7-12 months 0.5 micrograms per day
Babies aged 0-6 months 0.4 micrograms per day

Summary of Vitamin B12

There is no danger of overdosing on vitamin B12, as it is such a difficult vitamin to absorb into the body. There are also no toxic or adverse effects reported for those with too much of the vitamin in their system.

Deficiencies of the vitamin are reported in practically all age groups, but the effects are most often seen in the elderly and the very young. Therefore, those who are older, babies born to vegan mothers, or anyone with any of the high-risk factors for developing a B12 deficiency should consider taking vitamin B12 supplements.

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