Vitamin B12 is a water soluble-vitamin, a member of the B-vitamin family. Our liver does have some capacity to store vitamin B12 in comparison to its other family members, however, being a water-soluble vitamin means that our bodies lose it through sweat, in our breath and in urine. Compared to fat-soluble vitamins, which store in our bodies for much longer, therefore, we need regular amounts of our B-vits!Guidelines recommend that we have an intake of 1.5 µg/day to prevent deficiencies. We get this important vitamin from fish, poultry, eggs and dairy only. No plant foods provide B12, but, you can get foods which are fortified with it. However, a great way to ensure adequate B12 is through supplementation.
What Are The Benefits Of Taking Vitamin B12?
Some of the benefits of taking this supplement include…
– Preventing megaloblastic anaemia
– Preventing neural tube defects
– Lowering risk for cardiovascular disease
How And Why Is This Even Important?
Megaloblastic anaemia is when red blood cells become abnormally large, but with a reduced nuclear density. This means that less oxygen is able to be circulated to tissues in our body. This can bring on some very unwanted symptoms including fatigue and shortness of breath impacting both work and play aspects of your life (unnecessary hassle basically).
Neural tube defects
A slightly science-y explanation, however, in simple terms, when B12 levels are low, folic acid (essential for DNA synthesis – the building blocks to us all) becomes trapped. This means our cells cannot divide and in terms of pregnancy, this doesn’t allow the foetus to grow as it should! In mothers deficient in B12, there has been some research to shown that there is a 2-5 x greater risk for neural tube defects.
Lowering risk of cardiovascular disease
An amino acid called homocysteine can play a troublesome role in increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. B12 is one of the vitamins in charge of keeping levels of this protein at normal levels in addition to B6 and folate. When one of these three vitamins are low, homocysteine levels can creep up in our blood. When this elevation occurs, there is an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Although there is not a huge evidence base to confirm this cause and effect, prospective studies (watching the same people for a long time and seeing if any diseases occur!) have shown consistent associations between elevated homocysteine and increased cardiovascular disease. Not only this, but a supplementation amount of between 0.02-1mg/day has shown to reduce elevated homocysteine levels in the blood by a decent 7%!
Although some of the benefits have been explored, the lost doesn’t stop there. This little vitamin also…
– Keeps our teeth, bones, hair and skin in good nick!
– Works in digestion, helping to break down our food into the smaller digestible compounds
– Has an association with cognition, with dementia patients often showing low levels of B12
– Plays a crucial role in the healthy functioning of our nervous system and brain
How Do I Know If I Should Take Vitamin B12?
Over 60’s and those following strict vegetarian and vegan diets should definitely consider this supplement, specifically pregnant or breastfeeding vegetarian and vegan females. Vegans/vegetarians? Yes, for yourselves a supplement is a must! Without animal and dairy consumption, obtaining enough this vitamin regularly is extremely difficult, if not impossible. As mentioned before, pregnant and/or breastfeeding vegan/vegetarian females should almost definitely consider a B12 supplementation.
Over 60’s? Yes, in this stage of life, often malabsorption of nutrients can occur in the small intestine. This is because the stomach acid is less effective at getting at and releasing this vitamin from the food sources it comes from. Therefore, a deficiency and some of the problems associated with this can occur.
What if I don’t want to take a B12 supplement?
If not, it would be advisable to increase your intake from consuming either a multivitamin containing B12 or by consuming more foods fortified with it. Liver especially is one of the best sources for this vitamin! Generally, taking a supplement is pretty safe! Research has shown that doses up to 100 x the recommendation have shown no toxicity effects!
Vitamin B12 along with all other vitamins plays an important role in our bodies. However, before taking any supplement, check for any possible interactions with medication. In balance, we need all our vitamins present and in the right amounts for to keep us healthy, however, the role of vitamin B12 is pretty important from the start of our lives! If you think you fall into one of the risk groups for a possible deficiency, it may be worth trying a supplement!References1) Department of Health. (2004). Dietary reference values for food energy and nutrients for the United Kingdom. Norwich: TSO.2) James, K. (2018). 11 amazing health benefits of vitamin B12.
Retrieved from https://www.naturalfoodseries.com/11-amazing-benefits-vitamin-b12/
3) Mann, J., & Truswell, S. (2012). Essentials of Human Nutrition. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/
4) National Organizations for Rare Disorders. Anemia, megaloblastic. Retrieved from https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/anemia-megaloblastic/
5) O’Leary, F., & Samman, S. (2010). Vitamin B12 in health and disease. Nutrients, 2(3), 299-316. doi:10.3390/nu2030299
6) Ryan-Harshman, M., & Aldoori, W. (2008). Vitamin B12 and health. The official journal of the college of Family Physicians of Canada, 54(4), 536-541. Retrieved from http://www.cfp.ca/content/54/4/536#ref-53
7) Wedro, B., & Stöppler, M. C. (2018). Homocysteine (blood test). Retrieved from https://www.emedicinehealth.com/