Vitamin B12 is a chemical compound that plays a regulatory role in the body’s production of red blood cells and other cells. It is primarily found in animal-derived products, which is why people who follow a vegetarian diet may suffer from its deficiency. Vitamin B12 can also be taken as a dietary supplement.
Vitamin B12 – what is its role in the body?
Vitamin B12 is otherwise known as cobalamin and we can find it mostly in animal products. Like other B vitamins, it is involved in fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism. It also conditions cell division and the synthesis of the nucleic acids DNA and RNA, as well as the proteins that participate in their construction.
Other roles of vitamin B12 in the body are:
- Red blood cell production
- Improvement of nervous system function,
- supporting a good mood, reducing blood lipid levels,
- cell synthesis (mainly in bone marrow).
Vitamin B12 is stored in the liver and bone marrow and then distributed throughout the body via the bloodstream.
Vitamin B12 – which products have the most of it?
Vitamin B12 is naturally found in animal products, including fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk and dairy products. Vitamin B12 is generally not found in plant foods, but fortified breakfast cereals are a readily available source of vitamin B12 with high bioavailability for vegetarians.
Vitamin B12 and folic acid
High amounts of folic acid can mask the harmful effects of vitamin B12 deficiency by correcting megaloblastic anemia or neurological damage. Moreover, conducted studies suggest that high levels of folic acid in blood serum may not only mask vitamin B12 deficiency but can also exacerbate anemia and worsen cognitive symptoms associated with its deficiency.
Vitamin B12 – symptoms of deficiency
Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency can appear over many years, and the diagnosis may be incorrect. Sometimes, vitamin B12 deficiency is confused with folic acid deficiency. Importantly, low levels of vitamin B12 cause a decrease in folic acid levels. Here are the main signs of vitamin B12 deficiency:
- Paleness or jaundice of the skin – people with vitamin B12 deficiency often look pale or have a slightly yellow skin tone and eye whites (this condition is called jaundice). This happens when a lack of vitamin B12 causes problems with the production of red blood cells in the body. It should be noted that vitamin B12 plays a crucial role in producing the DNA needed for the formation of red blood cells. As a result, the red blood cells are built incorrectly and do not divide. This leads to a type of anemia called megaloblastic anemia. This condition weakens red blood cells, which the body breaks down more quickly. When the liver breaks down red blood cells, it releases bilirubin. Bilirubin is a slightly red or brown substance produced by the liver when it breaks down old blood cells. Large amounts of bilirubin give the skin and eyes a yellow tint.
- Constant feeling of fatigue – vitamin B12 deficiency means that the human body cannot produce enough red blood cells to effectively transport oxygen throughout the body. This can cause a feeling of tiredness and weakness.
- Nerve damage – vitamin B12 deficiency can cause a tingling and prickling sensation in the limbs, especially in the hands and feet. This is due to vitamin B12 playing a significant role in the proper functioning of the nervous system, and its deficiency leads to problems with nerve conduction. In addition, it helps produce myelin, a protective coating that protects nerves and prevents damage. If myelin production is insufficient, tingling and prickling sensations may occur.
- Mobility issues – undiagnosed and untreated nerve system damage caused by vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to changes in walking and movement, and even affect the maintenance of proper balance and coordination. Seniors, in whom vitamin B12 deficiency is most common, are particularly at risk.
- Oral cavity problems – inadequate levels of vitamin B12 in the body can cause inflammation of the tongue, mouth ulcers, tingling and prickling sensations in the tongue, and burning and itching.
- dizziness – due to an inadequate amount of red blood cells, too little oxygen is supplied to the body, resulting in dizziness and shortness of breath,
- visual disturbances – due to a vitamin B12 deficiency, the optic nerve can be damaged, resulting in impaired vision,
- mood disorders – people with a vitamin B12 deficiency have fluctuating moods and may even develop depression,
- elevated body temperature – a fairly rare but common symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency is a suddenly appearing high body temperature, so far no cause for this has been found,
- In infancy, symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include failure to thrive, movement disorders, developmental delays and megaloblastic anaemia.
Vitamin B12 – excess
So far, no side effects of excessive vitamin B12 intake have been identified. Only sensitisation symptoms have been noted in some people who through supplementation with high doses of this vitamin.
How to prevent vitamin B12 deficiency?
Most people can prevent vitamin B12 deficiency by eating enough meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products and eggs. If you don’t eat animal products or have a medical condition that restricts the absorption of nutrients from the gastrointestinal tract, you can take vitamin B12 in supplements and foods fortified with vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 supplements – when is it worth using?
When choosing a vitamin B12 preparation, it is important to pay attention to several things. Firstly, the dose of the vitamin must be high enough. This is because its absorption is a very complex process. Unfortunately, the efficiency of this mechanism decreases with age, which can lead to impaired absorption of vitamin B12.
If you want to fill up your body’s vitamin B12 levels, you can order from Kinly Vitamins food supplements. These food supplements contain a high dose of vitamin B12 (Methylcobalamin) to increase your deficiency. Kindly Vitamins food supplements have a pure formulation with no unnecessary fillers, and the product is suitable for both vegans and vegetarians. If you are experiencing a general deficiency in your body, it might be beneficial to consider combining multiple vitamins in your supplementation for example Vitamin D+K2, Magnesium, or using pre-formulated vitamin complexes.
In case of severe shortages only a sufficiently high dose – e.g. 500 µg or an intramuscular form – will be effective here. Secondly, it is important that the preparation fulfils its primary function – lowering homocysteine levels. It is known that deficiencies of vitamin B12, B6, biotin and folic acid are responsible for its increase – the ideal preparation consists of these elements. Thirdly, vitamin B12 must be in the form of methylcobalamin or cyanocobalamin.
Vegan and vegetarian sources of vitamin B12
Vegetarians and vegans are particularly vulnerable to vitamin B12 deficiency. By not consuming meat and animal products, they deprive themselves of a natural source of this vitamin. Therefore, they need to know which other products contain high values of this vitamin.
Products containing vitamin B12 for vegans:
- almond milk fortified with vitamin B12,
- coconut milk enriched with vitamin B12,
- food yeast,
- soya milk, original, enriched with vitamin B12,
- ready-to-eat cereals.
Products containing vitamin B12 for vegetarians:
- low-fat yoghurt
- low-fat milk,
- cottage cheese,
- Swiss cheese