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Mighty Vitey B12! An Overview of this Important Vitamin

Many of the eight vitamins that start with “B” are impressive, and B12 is certainly one of these.  There is so much to say about it that any single article would be lengthy, so let’s focus on what it does for your body, signs you are deficient and sources of B12 in foods you eat.
What Can Vitamin B12 Do For Me?
VitaminB12 is water-soluble (meaning it does not require a fat source to be absorbed) that is most often thought of in red blood cell production.
It is essential to normal nervous system and brain functions, and is essential for proper cell DNA synthesis.
B12 is also a chief component in metabolism functions including the synthesis of fatty acids and energy production.
B12 is frequently an ingredient in energy drinks and items like immunity boosters with high vitamin C contents.
Some suggestion comes that it can aid in weight loss, because of the role in metabolizing fats, proteins and other nutrients, but the science on this is sketchy.
There is new evidence that pregnant women need folic acid and B12 to have healthy pregnancies and boost protection against preventable birth defects (see your doctor if you are pregnant for guidance – but remember that the first portion of pregnancy before you even know is often when you need these nutrients in place.)
Additionally, high vitamin B12 levels have some exciting possibilities in protecting against brain atrophy in dementia and Alzheimer’s patients, and providing extra protection for brain functions as you enter senior years in general.
Vitamin B12 can also be used to help your body naturally suppress allergies.
B12 is an essential vitamin that you need to have from external sources – your body is not capable of making it.
What Are Signs of B12 Deficiency?
Severe deficiency can potentially cause permanent damage to your brain and nervous system.
Even when your levels are only slightly lower than they should be, you can have many symptoms including:
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Poor Memory
  • Irritability
  • Poor Concentration
  • Pale Skin
  • Sort Tongue
  • Easy Bruising
Deficiency can start to cause problems quickly, and in infants and children can result in irreversible problems very fast.  Babies born to vegetarian mothers need to have careful monitoring of their B12 levels to check for deficiency.
B12 deficiency can be caused by reasons other than inadequate intake. If something impacts the absorption, it also leads to deficiency even if you think you are getting enough.  These conditions can include:
  • Pernicious anemia.  A condition involving the lack of a protein called intrinsic factor - a protein produced in the stomach and is needed for vitamin B12 absorption.
  • Atrophic gastritis. Thinning of the stomach lining. This impacts up to 30% of people who are 50 and older.
  • Small intestine conditions. Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease, parasites or bacterial growth.
  • Surgery.  Any type where portions of the stomach and/or small intestine is removed.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Autoimmune disorders. Lupus or Graves disease are examples.
  • Using acid reducing drugs for a long time.
Sources of B12
Vitamin B12 is not something your body is capable of making. You can take it in supplement form, and there are also patches, sprays and injections... and the good old-fashioned idea of eating it from real food!
Food sources of B12 include:
  • Liver
  • Raw oysters
  • Cooked Alaskan king crab
  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Seafood of most types
  • Dairy including cheese and milk
  • Eggs
Liver is one of the highest sources from foods, because B12 is stored in liver for humans and animals.  B12 is found in food sources from animals including dairy that vegetarians might include in their diets, but Vegans must be especially careful to get adequate and legitimate sources of B12 (talk to your doctor.)
B12 is interesting in that even at extremely high doses over long periods of time, there have been no negative side effects reported. You should still use caution with any supplement, because they can still interact with medications, other supplements, or conditions you have.
But whatever you do, invite B12 to be part of your daily life.  It’s a vitamin you definitely need fighting for you in your corner!