- The doctor tells us why vitamin B12 is vital? Protection against anemia, gastritis and brain problems.
- Main function of vitamin B12
- Health benefits of vitamin B12
- Who needs vitamin B12?
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Any side-effects?
- Food rich of vitamin B12
- Cooking and stoking food containing vitamin B12
- Please get in touch with us if you may need doctor advice:
The doctor tells us why vitamin B12 is vital? Protection against anemia, gastritis and brain problems.
Vitamin B12 is a complex compound containing not only cobalt but also carbon, oxygen, phosphorus and nitrogen. Of all the vitamins discovered, vitamin B12 was the last to be discovered. In 1926, Maynott and Murphy reported that eating beef liver didn’t cure pernicious anaemia, which was associated with a deficiency of this vitamin. But it wasn’t until 1948 that the vitamin was discovered in liver and isolated as a pure chemical.
Vitamin B12 is very important for the synthesis of methionine, an amino acid that has several important functions in the body. The human body constantly needs methionine, and therefore vitamin B12 is needed for the formation of DNA molecules, myelin (covering of nerve fibres), the use of certain amino acids and fats for energy, and the use of another important B vitamin as folate acid (B9).
Main function of vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 differs from other B vitamins in that it comes only from animal foods. The body needs relatively small amounts of it. Only 3-4 micrograms (thousandths of a milligramme) of vitamin B12 are needed per day for the body to function properly. And unlike many other water-soluble vitamins, it can be stored in the body for a very long time, up to a year. Therefore, a deficiency can only become noticeable after 3-5 years BUT….
Health benefits of vitamin B12
Although it takes a long time for vitamin B12 deficiency to develop, researchers now know that vitamin B12 deficiency can cause serious health problems.
In this case, the red blood cells are large but immature and cannot do their job of carrying oxygen to the tissues.
Vitamin B12 is known as the “longevity vitamin” because it increases energy production and, according to scientists, helps keep the nervous system of older people functioning properly.
Vitamin B12 is often given to relieve symptoms of fatigue, especially in older patients who don’t eat enough animal products.
Who needs vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 supplements aren’t only given to treat existing deficiencies, but also as a preventive step for people at risk. For example, patients who have had problems with digestion, vegans and frequent eaters on restrictive diets, as well as people with intestinal and stomach diseases (insufficient production of hydrochloric acid) should receive additional vitamin B12.
Since vitamin B12 deficiency is known to damage the nervous system people over 40 should benefit from B12 supplements or IV infusions. Intravenous drippers work much faster than supplements!
Vitamin B12 is used to treat various disorders of the nervous system, including myelopathy (a disease of the spinal cord), neuropathy, sensory disorders, balance and gait disorders, and mental disorders such as:
- severe neurocognitive disorders
- senile psychosis and dementia.
Vitamin B12 is also useful for people with diabetes to prevent severe complications such as polyneuropathy (nerve damage with loss of sensation).
It works particularly well in combination with folic acid (B9) and vitamin B6.
There is evidence that vitamin B12 helps in the combination for treatment of HIV infection, and its complications.
Regular intake of cobalamin and folic acid helps protect the heart and blood vessels from damage.
In addition, vitamin B12 is useful in preventing and treating a number of problems such as:
- skin problems such as dermatitis, urticaria and eczema.
Vitamin B12 can also be used to normalise water balance as it acts as a mild diuretic.
Vitamin B12 deficiency
Vitamin B12 is essential for metabolism and t it must be supplied to the body daily. It takes a long time for the most serious symptoms (neurological disorders) to develop, so many people with vitamin B12 deficiency may not even be aware of it.
Otherwise, the damage can be partially irreversible.
The symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency vary greatly. They depend on how long the cause of the deficiency has been present.
The symptoms develop slowly over several years.
- In the beginning, only the cobalamin level in the blood is reduced
- In the second phase of the deficiency, the concentration of vitamin B12 in the cells also decreases, which inhibits the activity of enzymes that rely on this substance
- In the third phase of deficiency, DNA synthesis is reduced and plasma concentrations of homocysteine and methylmalonic acid increase.
Finally, changes form in the erythrocytes, causing macrocytic megaloblastic anemia.
The first symptoms are often confused with other diseases. The main signs of anemia are:
- Pallor – often with a yellow tinge to the skin and eyes due to associated jaundice
- Wheezing and shortness of breath
- Extreme tiredness
- Redness and soreness of the tongue – also called ‘strawberry tongue
- Weakness and stabbing pains in arms and legs
- Nausea, loss of appetite and weight loss
- Menstrual problems, including amenorrhoea
- Sensory hallucinations and paranoid thoughts
- Poor memory.
Even if the cause is identified, by then it may be too late and treatment won’t be effective
In addition, the nervous system is also affected, and the first neurological symptoms usually include:
- Weakness and pain in the arms and legs
- Reduced sensory perception (decreased sensitivity in the fingers and all over the skin)
- Difficulty walking
- Neuropathy (weakness, numbness or pain in the peripheral nerves)
- Neuritis (inflammation of peripheral nerves, pain and loss of function)
- Decreased reflexes
- Psychological symptoms – mood swings, difficulty concentrating.
- If the deficiency isn’t recognised at this stage and not corrected by taking high doses of cobalamin, further neurological damage can occur, leading to additional symptoms, such as
- Numbness in the limbs
- Impaired gait, frequent falls
- Loss of coordination
- Loss of sense of body position (proprioception)
- Loss of sensation in the ankles and toes
- Swelling of myelinated fibres and demyelination
- Impairment of memory
Although the upper tolerance limit for vitamin B12 isn’t well defined, it’s probably not advisable to exceed the daily dose significantly unless prescribed by a doctor. Although many people have taken very high doses of this vitamin (e.g. 1000 µg) without visible side effects, this doesn’t rule out the possibility that there are long-term harmful effects that we don’t yet know about.
Food rich of vitamin B12
Interestingly, the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency are very similar to those of folic acid deficiency, but the foods that are considered the best source of these two nutrients are very different. Green leafy vegetables and other plant foods are excellent sources of folic acid, but poor sources of vitamin B12. In contrast, meat and other animal products contain a lot of vitamin B12 but aren’t usually considered good sources of folic acid. Therefore, you need both meat and leafy vegetables to get both substances.
Meat and meat products, especially offal, poultry and some fish and shellfish, as well as eggs and dairy products such as yoghurt are considered important foods high in vitamin B12. The bioavailability of vitamin B12 in foods is usually between 40 and 89%.
Cooking and stoking food containing vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 in animal foods remains virtually intact with all cooking methods, including baking and boiling. Because vitamin B12 in food is bound to proteins, cooking preserves about 70%. However, a large amount of vitamin B12 can be lost in pasteurised or evaporated milk.