Health Benefits of Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
Vitamin B12 or cobalamin is an important B vitamin. It is essential for brain function, nerve tissue health, and red blood cell production.
Vitamin B12 can benefit your body in remarkable ways, such as improving your memory, boosting energy, and helping prevent heart disease.
When vitamin B12 levels are too low, a deficiency can occur. This deficiency can lead to fatigue, anemia, mania, and depression. A long-term deficiency can cause irreversible neurological symptoms.
In the United States, 1.5% to 15% of the population is currently diagnosed with vitamin B12 deficiency.
This article will explain the functions, health benefits of vitamin B12, its deficiency symptoms, recommended doses, and where to get more.
What Is Vitamin B12 & What Are Its Functions?
Vitamin B12 is essential for mental processes and red blood cell production.
Cobalamin is a water-soluble vitamin like all other B vitamins. The body can store this vitamin for up to four years. Any excess will therefore be eliminated through the urine. All B vitamins also help you lose weight.
Vitamin B12 helps keep the body’s nerves and blood cells healthy and helps to form DNA, the genetic material in all cells. Vitamin B12 also helps prevent anemia called ‘megaloblastic anemia,’ making people feel tired and weak.
The B-12 vitamin is the largest and most complex of all vitamins. It is naturally present in meat products and can only be industrially produced through bacterial fermentation.
10 Scientific Based Health Benefits of Vitamin B12
Here are 10 health benefits of vitamin B12, based on science.
- Vitamin B12 May Prevent Major Birth Defects
Adequate vitamin B12 levels are essential for a healthy pregnancy. In addition, they are crucial for preventing birth defects of the spinal cord and brain.
Studies have shown that the brain and nervous system of the fetus need sufficient levels of B12 from the mother to develop normally. In addition, a mother’s vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to premature delivery or miscarriage.
2. Vitamin B12 Can Help Boost Your Energy Level
Taking vitamin B12 supplements is considered an excellent way to increase energy levels.
All B-vitamins play a critical role in energy production in the body, according to studies. So if you are severely deficient in vitamin B12, taking supplements or increasing your intake may increase your energy levels.
3. It Can Contribute To the Red Blood Cells Production & Prevent Anemia
It aids in the formation of red blood cells in the body.
When vitamin B12 levels are too low, red blood cell production is disturbed, leading to megaloblastic anemia.
Studies have found that low vitamin B12 levels impair their growth.
4. It May Support Bone Health & Prevent Osteoporosis
Maintaining adequate levels of vitamin B12 helps maintain healthy bones.
Low blood levels of this vitamin are associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis.
According to a study, individuals who were B12 deficient also had lower bone mineral density than normal
5. Vitamin B12 Can Improve Mood & Depression Symptoms
Cobalamin is necessary for the production of serotonin, a chemical substance responsible for regulating mood. Therefore, researchers support using vitamin B12 supplements to improve depression symptoms in people who lack this vitamin.
The research revealed that vitamin B12 deficiency could cause severe depression at twice the rate of those with sufficient amounts
6. Cobalamin Can Reduce the Risk of Macular Degeneration
Maintaining adequate vitamin B12 levels will reduce the blood homocysteine levels. As a result, it can help prevent the development of age-related macular degeneration.
A study of 5,000 women 40 years and older concluded that taking vitamin B12 supplements along with vitamin B6 and folic acid can reduce the risk of age-related muscular degeneration.
7. It Can Improve Heart Health by Lowering Homocysteine
Vitamin B12 can lower blood homocysteine levels, an amino acid associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
Studies have shown that vitamin B12 helps reduce homocysteine levels, thereby lowering the risk of heart disease.
8. Vitamin B12 Can Benefit Your Brain by Preventing Neurons Loss
This vitamin plays a role in preventing brain atrophy, which is the loss of nerve cells in the brain, usually associated with dementia or memory loss.
One study of patients with early dementia showed that a combination of omega-3 fatty acid and vitamin B-12 supplements could slow mental decline.
9. Cobalamin Support Healthy Skin, Hair & Nails
Due to the role of vitamin B12 in cell production, sufficient levels of this vitamin are needed to promote skin, hair, and nails.
Vitamin B12 supplements have been shown to improve skin symptoms in patients with vitamin B12 deficiency.
10. Vitamin B12 Can Reduce the Risk of Cancer
Some research suggests vitamin B12 may prevent some cancers. For example, there was a study conducted on women who had cervical dysplasia. Researchers found that women who take vitamin B12 supplements and riboflavin, folate, and thiamin have a lower risk of developing cervical cancer.
So, there are a lot of health benefits of Vitamin B12. Now look at the food sources of it.
What Are The Good Food Sources of Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is naturally found in animal products such as meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products. However, it usually does not occur in plant foods.
Foods rich in vitamin B12 include:
- Fish, like haddock, tuna
- Trout, salmon
- King crab
- Fortified cereals
- Fortified soymilk
- Fortified tofu
- Low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese
- Some nutritional yeast products
What’s the Recommended Dosage of Vitamin B12?
In the United States, the National-Institutes-of-Health (NIH) recommended:
- Teens and adults: 2.4 mcg/day
- Pregnant women: 2.6 mcg/day
- Breastfeeding women: 2.8 mcg/day
Is Excessive Intake of Vitamin B12 Harmful?
It has not been proven that excessive intake of vitamin B12 has toxic or harmful effects. However, it is always recommended that people consult a doctor before starting to take supplements.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
In the United States, 1.5% to 15% of the population is currently diagnosed with vitamin B12 deficiency.
Most older people suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency. You are at risk of deficiency when you do not consume enough or cannot absorb through your food.
The following signs and symptoms characterize a vitamin B12 deficiency.
- Weakness and Fatigue: Lack of vitamin B12 can cause your body to be unable to produce enough red blood cells to transport oxygen evenly throughout your body. This will make you feel tired and weak.
- Pale Skin or Jaundice: If you are deficient in vitamin B12, your skin may appear jaundiced or pale. The result is a type of anemia called megaloblastic anemia, in which the bone marrow produces large and fragile red blood cells.
- Glossitis and Oral Ulcers: One of the early symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency is a red and swollen tongue. This condition is called glossitis.
- The sensation of Pins & Needles: Vitamin B12 plays a vital role in the production of the myelin sheath, which insulates your nerves and is very important for the function of the nervous system. A common sign that vitamin B12 deficiency may cause nerve damage is a tingling sensation.
- Shortness of Breath & Dizziness: Anemia caused by vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to dizziness and breathlessness. An inability to transport sufficient oxygen to all the cells of the body.
- Movement Changes: In the long run, untreated vitamin B12 deficiency can cause balance problems and affect how you move.
- Decrease Athletic Performance: The ability to perform high-intensity exercise may be decreased in athletes who have an insufficient nutritional status for vitamin B12. Higher levels of B12 correlate with more incredible athletic performance among women specifically.
- Disturbed Vision: In rare cases, the nervous system damage caused by vitamin B12 deficiency can affect the optic nerve. It can cause disturbed or blurred vision.
- Mood Swings: Some people with vitamin B12 deficiency may experience signs of depressed mood or symptoms characterized by decreased brain function, such as dementia.
- High Temperature: In rare cases, high temperature may be a symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Who Is At Risk of Vitamin B-12 Deficiency?
In the U.S., up to 6% of people age 60 or older have a vitamin B12 deficiency, and about 20% have low to normal or borderline deficient levels of B-12.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can occur in two ways. Either your diet lacks sufficient amounts, or your body cannot fully absorb it from the food you eat.
People at risk of vitamin B-12 deficiency include:
- Older adults
- People on a strict vegan diet plan
- People with digestive diseases like celiac disease or Crohn’s disease.
- People have undergone gastrointestinal surgery, such as bowel resection surgery or bariatric surgery.
- People who are taking proton pump inhibitors to treat chronic heartburn.
- People who are taking metformin to control blood sugar.
Tip: If you follow a healthy and varied diet plan, it would be easy to prevent the vitamin B12 deficiency.
Vitamin B12 Supplements
Some people have difficulty absorbing vitamin B12 from food and may need to take supplements.
This includes older people, people with pernicious anemia, intestinal disorders, or achlorhydria who may have difficulty absorbing vitamin B12 from food.
Supplements can be taken either orally or as nasal sprays. However, oral supplements are of no avail in many cases of deficiency. In these cases, vitamin B12 can be injected.
Is There Any Side Effect of Taking Vitamin B12?
The side effects of taking vitamin B12 are minimal. It is not considered toxic in large amounts, and even a dose of 1,000 micrograms is not regarded as harmful.
Health Benefits of Vitamin B12: Takeaway
‘Vitamin B12’ is a water-soluble vitamin that you must obtain through your diet or from supplements.
This article explained several health benefits of vitamin B12. It is responsible for many body functions and can benefit your health in many ways, such as supporting bone health, improving mood, preventing major birth defects, maintaining healthy skin and hair.
Getting enough vitamin B12 through diet is essential. However, if you have difficulty getting enough vitamins or have conditions that affect absorption, supplements are an easy way to increase your vitamin B12 intake.