The Essential Health Benefits of Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is an essential water-soluble vitamin that your body needs but cannot itself produce. In order to obtain sufficient quantities, one has to eat sufficient amounts of the correct foods or take suitable supplements.
Which foods are good dietary sources of B12
Vitamin B12 is naturally found in animal products, with fish, red meat and beef liver being excellent sources. Poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products are also rich in B12.
Because vitamin B12 is generally not present in vegetables and plant foods, vegans and vegetarians have to be careful in assessing whether they are in fact obtaining sufficient B12 through diet alone. Fortunately, many well-known breakfast cereals are enhanced with added vitamin B12, providing another way for the whole family to maintain good levels of the vitamin through dietary means.
Some yeast-based food products also contain vitamin B12, and many other packaged foods are fortified in varying amounts. The important thing is to read the nutrition facts on the labeling. RDA (recommended dietary allowances) are usually listed, showing the percentage of RDA you’ll get per portion consumed. Always read labels, and make sure that B12 is present in the listed ingredients in a sufficient quantity.
The varied roles that B12 plays for your body
Vitamin B12 is responsible for a great variety of essential bodily functions, and can benefit your health in various ways:
- It is important for red blood cell formation and preventing anemia. When the body doesn’t have enough red blood cells, it cannot get the sufficient levels of oxygen it needs to work as it should. This can cause anemia, making one feel tired, weak, and short of breath.
- One of the most common early signs of vitamin B12 deficiency is fatigue or lack of energy.
- B12 enables proper DNA synthesis by the body.
- Adequate vitamin B12 levels are crucial to a healthy pregnancy. Helping to prevent major birth defects.
- It is shown to support bone health. One study in more than 2,500 adults showed that people with a vitamin B12 deficiency also had lower than normal bone mineral density.
- The vitamin is thought to improve mood and symptoms of depression.While the effect of vitamin B12 on mood is not yet fully understood, it is known to play a vital role in synthesizing and metabolizing serotonin, a chemical which is responsible for regulating mood.
- Healthy skin and hair are dependent on sufficient levels of B12.
- It could ensure improved heart health by decreasing homocysteine in the blood. High levels of homocysteine have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
- Sufficient levels of B12 are seen to promote normal function of the brain and nerve cells.
- Vitamin B12 deficiency has been associated with memory loss, especially in older adults. The vitamin may play a role in preventing brain atrophy, which is caused by the loss of neurons in the brain. This is often associated with memory loss or dementia.
- B12 promotes eye and vision health, reducing the risk of macular degeneration. This is an eye disease that mainly affects central vision. Maintaining adequate levels of vitamin B12 may help prevent the risk of age-related macular degeneration.
The importance of taking good B12 supplements
Vitamin B12 has long been thought to boost energy levels, improve memory and help prevent heart disease. Because it is water-soluble, though, one’s body cannot store extra amounts of the vitamin. Should any excess be produced it simply passes through the body and is quickly eliminated when you urinate. Supplementing B12 by taking regular doses of a good supplement is the best way to prevent this and keep levels up.
Vegetarians and in particular, Vegans, are particularly at risk because B12 is only found in animal products. Supplements are again the answer to dietary limitations.
The bottom line
Because vitamin B12 is responsible for so many bodily functions, making sure that your intake reaches sufficient levels is crucial. While a properly balanced diet will usually deliver fairly good quantities, this is not always the case. You may struggle to obtain enough through your diet alone or may have a condition that affects absorption.
Pregnant mothers need to be particularly careful in this regard, as the fetus requires good levels of B12 for the brain and nervous system to develop properly. Unless the mother ensures that her levels of B12 are high enough, the risk to the developing fetus is increased.
For all these reasons, one should consider taking a good B12 supplement on a regular basis.
There is no need to fall short of the required level, supplements are an excellent and simple way to increase your B12 intake and maximize your levels of energy, health and wellness.