To B12 or not to B12? That Shouldn’t Even Be A Question!
All vitamins are important, and we should all do our very best to ensure we get the right amount every day. But one of the most important vitamins of them all is Vitamin B12. This hardworking nutrient keeps our nerves and blood cells healthy and actually helps us make DNA. It also gives us energy and helps protect our heart and bones, and is vital for brain health – particularly as we get older. It even improves our mood and helps us look younger!
Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products, so vegans and vegetarians must ensure they take adequate supplements. Some breakfast cereals are fortified with B12, so check the product labels. The best sources of B12 are clams and beef liver, but it is also found in other meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk and other dairy products.
In order for your body to properly absorb Vitamin B12 from the food you eat, two things have to happen: Firstly, the hydrochloric acid in your stomach separates the vitamin from the protein to which it was attached. The B12 then combines with another protein already in your stomach, called intrinsic factor. It is then ready for the body to absorb.
What Does B12 Do?
As mentioned, Vitamin B12 performs many important functions in our bodies, but here are some of the most critical:
- Gives Us Sustained Energy – B12 keeps our cells happy and healthy by keeping them fed. It controls the release of energy into our cells throughout the day, giving us the right balance depending on what we’re doing. When we don’t get enough B12, we feel weak and tired.
- Boosts Our Bones – patients with osteoporosis often have lower levels of B12 than those with healthy, strong bones.
- Keeps Our Hearts Happy – This amazing nutrient removes a protein called homocysteine from your blood. This dangerous protein can damage arteries and cause inflammation and heart disease if it’s not eliminated.
- Protects Our Brains – studies show people with Alzheimer’s have far lower levels of B12 than similarly-aged people with normal brain function. B12 helps protect the myelin sheath, which coats our brain cells, keeping them healthy and happy.
What Happens If I Don’t Have Enough B12?
Most people in developed countries get enough B12 from their diets, but some people have a problem absorbing it. Certain medications, such as those taken for acid reflux, peptic ulcers and diabetes, along with some antibiotics, can also affect absorption.
Vitamin B12 deficiency affects up to 15% of the population, and can manifest in the following ways:
- Tiredness, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite and weight loss.
- Nerve problems, including tingling or numbness in your hands and feet.
- Depression, confusion and poor memory.
- Problems with balance, and soreness of the mouth and tongue.
- In babies, symptoms can include failure to thrive, megaloblastic anaemia, problems with movement and delays in reaching typical milestones.
Dr Alain Sanua is a qualified medical doctor currently practising Integrated Medicine. Nutritional advice and mineral and vitamin supplementation are two of his specialities, so if you have any concern about your Vitamin B12 levels, please make an appointment.