Vitamin B12: The Energy Nutrient many of you should be thinking about!

As a practitioner in India, I am appalled by the number of patients suffering from B12 deficiency. It is common for patients to complain about fatigue, vague pains, depression. More often than not, many tests are conducted with no results and the one missed is the test for B12.  This Energy Vitamin is one of the leading nutrient deficiencies in the world and a major concern in U.S, India, Mexico, Central America, South America and certain areas in Africa. Even though needed in small quantities, it plays a critical role in the optimal functioning of the human body.

Vitamin B 12, also called cobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin that has a key role in the normal functioning of the brain, nervous system and the formation of red blood cells. It is one of eight B vitamins. Without negating the importance of other nutrients, I find B12 essential and more important than the rest because of the steady rise in people affected by this deficiency & not being aware of it.

B12 is required…

  • For the manufacture of red blood cells; deficiency leads to a characteristic kind of anemia
  • To support the normal function of nerve cells, and to manufacture myelin, the insulating material that surrounds some of our nerve cells and speeds neural transmission. The most serious manifestation of B12 deficiency is impaired brain function, due to the effects of B12 on nerve cells. Advanced B12 deficiency causes dementia resembling Alzheimer’s disease. 
  • For the replication of DNA- the deficiency leads to difficulty in the regeneration of new healthy cells. As a result, vitamin B12 deficiency mimics all of the effects of aging.
  • B12 is involved in the metabolism of every cell of the human body, especially affecting DNA synthesis, fatty acid, and amino acid metabolism. 

No fungi, plants, nor animals (including humans) are capable of producing vitamin B12.  Only bacteria and archaea have the enzymes needed for its synthesis. Hence, B12 needs to be taken externally through relevant sources.
Who should be concerned about B12 deficiency?

  1. If you are or were vegetarians or a vegan it is time for you to get yourself tested for this deficiency.
  2. Babies born to mothers who are vegetarians usually have this deficiency
  3. The risk of B12 deficiency increases with age.  So test yourself and fortify your meal in case of a deficiency
  4. Pernicious anemia- is an autoimmune condition that affects your stomach. In your stomach, vitamin B12 is combined with a protein called intrinsic factor. This mix of vitamin B12 and intrinsic factor is then absorbed into the body in part of the gut called the distal ileum. Pernicious anemia causes your immune system to attack the cells in your stomach that produce the intrinsic factor, which means your body is unable to absorb vitamin B12.
  5. Conditions that affect your intestines can also stop you from absorbing the necessary amount of vitamin B12. For example, Crohn’s disease (a long-term condition that causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive system) can sometimes mean your body doesn’t get enough vitamin B12.
  6. Some types of medicine can lead to a reduction in the amount of vitamin B12 in your body. For example, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)  a medication sometimes used to treat indigestion  can make a vitamin B12 deficiency worse.

Move towards a B12 rich diet if you have the following symptoms

  • Weakness, tiredness, or lightheadedness
  • Heart palpitations and shortness of breath
  • Pale skin
  • A smooth tongue
  • Constipation, diarrhea, a loss of appetite, or gas 
  • Nerve problems like numbness or tingling, muscle weakness, and problems walking
  • Vision loss
  • Mental problems like depression, memory loss, or behavioral changes 

Sources of B12

Proved sources of B12 are animal products (meat, fish, and dairy products), fortified cereals. One can also have supplements for B12.

The best part of this Energy Nutrient is that the excess is excreted by the body or stored in the liver for use when supplies are scarce. Stores of B12 can last for up to a year. Unfortunately sometimes catching the B12 deficiency late can result in permanent damage.

Ensure you get enough of this Vitamin for a healthy life

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