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9 benefits of vitamin B12 for health

Vitamin B12 (also called cobalamin or cyanocobalamin) is an essential nutrient needed by the body to optimize brain, nerve and blood health. However, despite its importance, there is ample evidence that people around the world are deficient in this essential nutrient.

Studies in the United States show that one in six people (17%) aged 60 and over are deficient in vitamin B12, compared to one in 15 (6%) under the age of 60. However, the threat to health loomed over not only Americans. For example, a 2014 study in northern China found that up to 45% of Chinese women are deficient in vitamin B12. The problem affected many other countries.

Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12

Signs and symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency

Due to the importance vitamin B12 for the human body, its lack can be the cause of various problems. According to researchers at Harvard University, symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include anemia, memory problems and depression.

Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to the following diseases:

  • Anemia;

  • Abnormal platelet count (low platelet count or high platelet count);

  • Glossalgia (burning mouth syndrome);

  • Depression;

  • Fatigue;

  • Hallucinations and blackouts;

  • Insomnia;

  • Loss of orientation in space;

  • Anosmia;

  • Memory loss - vitamin B12 deficiency is more common in people with dementia;

  • Numbness and tingling in the legs and arms, which doctors call "peripheral neuropathy." Neuropathy is common in patients with diabetes, but can also occur in patients with prediabetes or non-diabetics;

  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus);

  • Vitiligo is a skin condition in which some areas of the skin have no color (hypopigmentation).


Sources of vitamin B12

An important source of vitamin B12 is food. Here are the main sources of vitamin B12 in the diet:

  • meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products;

  • Spirulina, a blue-green algae rich in vitamin B12.


Vitamin B12 level analysis

A blood test for vitamin B12 levels – the most common way to check through a blood test – can easily be ordered by your doctor. Values ​​that are considered normal may vary depending on the country, but we would like to give some recommendations that should be considered:  

  • Vitamin B12 blood level (normally 200-900 pg/ml) — Most neurologists recommend a vitamin B12 blood level above 500 pg/ml to provide the nerves and brain with sufficient amounts of this vitamin.

  • Methylmalonic acid – an elevated level indicates vitamin B12 deficiency.

  • Homocysteine ​​– an elevated level indicates vitamin B12 deficiency. Elevated homocysteine ​​levels may also be present in deficient patients folic acid. Elevated levels of homocysteine ​​increase the risk of developing dementia and cardiovascular disease.


Nine benefits of vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 performs many functions. Below are some of its most important features:

  • Reduces fatigue;

  • Optimizes memory function;

  • Optimizes sleep;

  • Promotes the production of erythrocytes;

  • Participates in DNA synthesis;

  • Promotes protein production;

  • Promotes the production of brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) to prevent depression;

  • Improves nerve function and communication skills;

  • Lowers the level of homocysteine ​​- an increased level of the amino acid homocysteine ​​is associated with an increased risk of dementia, heart disease and stroke. Vitamin B12 lowers homocysteine ​​levels.


Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12

Risk factors for vitamin B12 deficiency

There are many risk factors for vitamin B12 deficiency. Get your blood levels of this vitamin checked if any of the following apply to you:

  • Age - with age, the ability of the gastrointestinal tract to absorb vitamins and minerals decreases. As a result, supplements of essential vitamins are crucial.

  • Vegetarian diet - meat is the main source of vitamin B12, so if you are vegetarian it is important to take a vitamin B12 supplement or its equivalent.

  • Pernicious anemia - diagnosed with a low level of red blood cells due to a lack of vitamin B12. Pernicious anemia affects one in 1,000 people. The main symptom is fatigue.

  • Crohn's disease is an autoimmune disease that leads to inflammation of the colon and, as a result, to a decrease in the absorption of important nutrients.

  • Alcohol consumption - regular consumption of alcohol leads to a decrease in absorption vitamin B12, folic acid  and thiamine.

  • Bariatric Surgery - Patients undergoing weight loss surgery often have problems absorbing vitamins, including vitamin B12.


Medicines causing vitamin B12 deficiency

  • Drugs that reduce the acidity of gastric juice - omeprazole (Prylacet), pantoprazole (Protonix), esomeprazole (Nexium), ranitidine (Zantac) and famotidine (Pepside);

  • Diabetic drugs - metformin reduces the absorption of vitamin B12. A 2014 study in South Korea found that patients taking 1,000 mg of metformin per day were 10 times more likely to develop vitamin B12 deficiency than patients not taking the medication;

  • Birth control pills;

  • Chronic use of steroids;

  • Antibiotics - taking antibiotics helps destroy intestinal bacteria that produce vitamin B12;

  • Cholestyramine is a drug for lowering cholesterol;

  • Medicines for epilepsy such as phenytoin;

  • Medicines for gout (colchicine);

  • Potassium citrate and potassium chloride.


How to prevent shortages

Help the body maintain an adequate level vitamin B12 can be done by simply taking supplements with vitamin B12 or spirulina.


Supplements

A few points to remember:   If there is a deficit folic acid, fill the vitamin B12 deficiency first and then the folic acid deficiency. It promotes cell metabolism. Because vitamin B12 is water-soluble, it quickly leaves the body when you urinate (vitamin B12 makes urine bright yellow). To maintain optimal blood levels, consider taking this vitamin twice a day.


There are several ways of consumption vitamin B12:

  • Vitamin B12 in tablets - available as vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin) or methylvitamin B12 (methylcobalamin). The daily oral dose is 500-5000 mcg;

  • Vitamin B12 in oral spray . The daily oral dose is 500-5000 mcg;

  • Vitamin B12 in drops . Available as vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin) or methylvitamin B12 (methylcobalamin). The daily oral dose is 500-5000 mcg;

  • Vitamin B12 in injections - in most countries, it is only available with a doctor's prescription. The weekly or monthly dose is 1000 mcg.

Deficit vitamin B12 is one of the most common types of vitamin deficiency. With a low level of this vitamin, a person has numerous symptoms. Regular vitamin B12 tests should be done, especially if you are over 60, and if you are taking medications such as antacids, birth control pills, and diabetes medications. Most people with vitamin B12 deficiency need a supplement.  


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