You see it mentioned on nutrition labels; you see it sold in bottles at health food stores; but what exactly is vitamin B12, and why do you need it?
Vitamins are an important aspect of our nutrition. However, for the average person, it can be confusing to know exactly what they all do and how much you need of each.
To help take some of the mystery out of vitamin B12, we are going to answer the three most commonly asked questions about this important nutrient. Read on to find out all you need to know.
What is Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 performs several vital functions in the body, including helping to produce healthy red blood cells, and keeping your brain and nervous system healthy. It is also one of the main nutrients required to produce and regulate DNA.
B12 is typically found in animal products. Foods that are especially rich in this nutrient include cow’s liver, clams, beef, pork, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, cheese, and some breakfast cereals that have specifically been fortified with vitamin B12.
The absorption of B12 is a two-step process. First, the hydrochloric acid naturally found in your stomach separates the B12 from the protein it was attached to in your food. The freed vitamin B12 then binds itself to a protein made in your stomach which can then be absorbed into your system. People who do not produce enough stomach acid may have difficulty absorbing vitamin B12.
What Does a B12 Deficiency Look Like?
Some people do not get enough vitamin B12. This may be due to a limited or poor diet, or perhaps caused by chronic conditions that prevent them from absorbing adequate amounts of B12. Because natural food sources of this vitamin come entirely from animal products, vegans are particularly at risk.
A deficiency of vitamin B12 can present in many ways, but the most extreme cases result in a condition called megaloblastic anemia. This type of anemia leaves patients feeling chronically tired and weak and, in these cases, people require prompt medical attention as anemia can lead to more severe complications.
A general lack of vitamin B12 can cause digestive problems including a loss of appetite, excessive weight loss, and constipation. Some nerve problems may also occur, like tingling in the hands and feet. Other people report feeling as though they are in a continual “fog” when they are lacking in B12 and, indeed, a B12 deficiency can cause symptoms of depression, poor memory, or confusion.
A B12 deficiency that doesn’t cause anemia can be treated successfully with supplements.
How Can I Increase my Intake of B12?
The average adult requires a daily vitamin B 12 intake of about 2.4 mcg, and women who are pregnant or nursing need approximately 2.8 mcg. As mentioned earlier, vitamin B12 can be found in meats, fish, and dairy products, but if your diet doesn’t contain enough of these foods for whatever reason, your best bet will be to supplement.
And if you’ve been experiencing mild nerve problems such as tingling in your hands or feet, a general inability to concentrate, or even weight loss or digestive issues, the answer may be to take a complete vitamin B supplement. Bauer Nutrition offers a Vitamin B Complex supplement, which contains all of the B vitamins you’ll need in a day, including B12. After all, your body can only work to its optimal level if it’s receiving the right amount of daily nutrients.