Vitamin B12, also called cobalamin, is one of the eight B vitamins. It is a significantly important nutrient for the body, and has a key role in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system, and for the formation of blood. It is sometimes known as the "energy vitamin" because it is also involved in energy production. Vitamin B12 can be stored in small amounts by the body, and around 80% of this is stored in the liver.
Some of the important roles vitamin B12 has in the body are:
- It is involved in the metabolism of every cell of the body, including DNA synthesis and regulation, as well as fatty acid synthesis and energy production.
- It helps folic acid regulate the formation of red blood cells, and helps the body use iron.
- It is needed for proper digestion, food absorption, carbohydrate and fat metabolism.
- It helps keep the nervous system healthy by assisting the nerves of your body to function and communicate in an optimal manner.
- It supports a healthy mood and feelings of well-being, as well as supporting memory, mental clarity, and concentration.
- It has a vital role in melatonin production. Melatonin is referred to as the sleep hormone because it is responsible for helping you get a good night's sleep.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency
A vitamin B12 deficiency can result in anemia, poor resistance to infection, decreased nervous system function, fatigue, depression and poor memory.
The elderly are more likely to have a vitamin B12 deficiency, caused by either not getting enough in the diet and from losing the ability to absorb it. This is because the older you get the more your digestive system breaks down. Specifically the lining of the stomach gradually loses its ability to produce hydrochloric acid, which is responsible for releasing vitamin B12 from food.
Sources of Vitamin B12
As you can see, it is imporant to ensure we have adequate amounts of this vitamin in our body for good health.
Vitamin B12 is found in animal sources of food, including fish and shellfish, meat (especially liver), poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products. There are no known plant foods considered to be reliable sources of this vitamin, so those who do not eat meat, eggs, milk and its products, are recommended to ensure their diet includes foods fortified with vitamin B12, or supplement with vitamins.