Maintain Healthy Nerve Cells
Vitamin B12 is also called cobalamin because it contains the metal cobalt.
This vitamin helps maintain healthy nerve cells and red blood cells. It is also needed to help make DNA, the genetic material in all cells. Vitamin B12 is a water-soluable vitamin.
Vitamin B12 Health Benefits
- Aids in the formation of red blood cells
- Assists in the formation of genetic material
- Helps the nervous system function
Vitamin B12 is bound to the protein in food. Hydrochloric acid in the stomach releases B12 from proteins in foods during digestion. Once released, vitamin B12 combines with a substance called gastric intrinsic factor. This complex can then be absorbed by the intestinal tract.
Low blood levels of B12 can lead to depression. Depressed people who had low levels of B12 (and were taking antidepressants) felt much better three months after adding a B12 supplement.
Why Does it Work?
Your brain uses B12 to manufacture dopamine and serotonin. Many conditions, from dementia to depression, are linked to B12 deficiencies. Like depression, B12 deficiency isn't rare: As many as two-fifths of adults may have at least marginal deficiencies, says the Framingham Offspring Study.
Vitamin B12 is naturally found in animal foods including fish (trout, salmon, haddock, clams, tuna), meat (beef, pork), poultry (chicken breast), eggs, milk, and milk products. Fortified breakfast cereals are a particularly valuable source of vitamin B12 for vegetarians.
Results of two national surveys, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and the Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals found that most children and adults in the United States (U.S.) consume recommended amounts of vitamin B12. A deficiency may still occur as a result of an inability to absorb B12 from food and in strict vegetarians who do not consume any animal foods. As a general rule, most individuals who develop a vitamin B12 deficiency have an underlying stomach or intestinal disorder that limits the absorption of vitamin B12.
When researchers measured blood levels of vitamin B-12 in 3,000 men and women ages 26 to 83, 39-percent had low levels of this vitamin. Previously, researchers believed B-12 helps maintain a healthy nervous system and normal brain function. B-12, along with B-6 and folic acid -- also helps keep artery-damaging homocysteine at healthy levels. You can get B-12 from supplements, fortified breakfast cereals, dairy, meat, poultry or fish.
The recommended daily amount is 6mcg, but if you are over 50, 25mcg is better. However, if you've had gastric surgery or radiation, or have low stomach acid or an inflammatory condition in your GI tract, you may not be able to absorb B-12. In these cases, you would need B-12 shots.
Signs of Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Pale complexion.
- Numb fingers/toes.
- Poor memory.
- Depression and fatigue.
- According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, B12 is beneficial in people over age 50 who often have a reduced ability to absorb naturally occurring vitamin B12.
- Studies on individuals diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (also known as CFS) concluded that B-12 injections significantly improved sleep and energy.
- Studies have also shown that high homocystiene levels are associated with Alzhiemer's and Heart disease. Studies have also shown that supplementing vitamin B12, B6, and folic acid can balance homocystiene levels.
Vitamin B-12 is important for proper function the heart and circulatory system. It also promotes energy production in the body. As we age, we lose our ability to absorb B-12 from foods that we eat. Vitamin B-12 also plays a central role in the regulation of sleep, appetite and energy.
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