8 Reasons Why Vitamin B12 Is Important

8 Reasons Why Vitamin B12 Is Important

Vitamin B12 helps form red blood cells and DNA, plays a crucial role in cell metabolism, helps the development of brain and nerve cells, boosts energy levels and mood, decreases the risk of heart disease and stroke, helps treat anemia, and reduces the risk of macular degeneration.

Many health professionals stress that vitamin B12 helps our bodies in many ways. Others warn about the frightening consequences of not meeting our daily needs for vitamin B12.

Both groups agree that vitamin B12 is very important. But why exactly is vitamin B12 important?

This article will answer this question. Specifically, we’ll discuss the following:

  • The role that vitamin B12 plays in the body.
  • Eight reasons vitamin B12 is important.
  • What happens when you have vitamin B12 deficiency.
  • How the body absorbs vitamin B12.

What role does vitamin B12 play in the body?

Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin that the body cannot make but needs for proper functioning. It plays a critical role in maintaining nerve cells, producing DNA and red blood cells, regulating mood, etc.

What role does vitamin B12 play in the body?

Vitamin B12 is often called cobalamin, as it contains the mineral cobalt. It is one of the eight B vitamins, together called the vitamin B complex. 

The B vitamins aid metabolism and help in creating new blood cells. They also help maintain brain cells, skin cells, other body tissues, and more. The vitamins also help the nervous system function properly.

Reasons Vitamin B12 is important for the body

Vitamin B12 is important for the body for the following reasons:

  • It helps in red blood cell formation
  • It helps in DNA synthesis
  • It plays an essential role in cell metabolism
  • It is crucial for the development of brain and nerve cells
  • It decreases the risk of heart disease and stroke
  • It boosts energy levels and mood
  • It helps treat anemia
  • It reduces the risk of macular degeneration

1. Helps form red blood cells and DNA

Vitamin B12 contributes to hemoglobin synthesis, helping your body produce healthy red blood cells that function properly.

The function of red blood cells is to carry oxygen from the lungs to our bodies’ organs and tissues. It then makes the return trip, taking carbon dioxide from the organs and tissues back to the lungs to be exhaled.

What helps red blood cells perform this transport function is the protein hemoglobin. Without hemoglobin, red blood cells cannot perform their oxygen-carrying function. 

Critically, vitamin B12 contributes to hemoglobin synthesis. It does this by activating succinyl CoA, which is required to make heme. That is, vitamin B12 activates succinyl CoA, which is critical to the formation of heme, which then undergoes chemical modifications to form hemoglobin.

Without vitamin B12, your body cannot make enough heme to produce enough red blood cells. In cases of low vitamin B12 levels, the limited red blood cells do not develop properly. They become larger than normal and are typically oval instead of round.

Due to their overly big size and irregular shape, the relatively few red blood cells cannot move from the bone marrow into the bloodstream to perform their oxygen-carrying functions. This causes megaloblastic anemia. 

2. Helps form DNA

Vitamin B12 helps in the catalytic conversion of homocysteine to methionine, a reaction that leads to the production of THF, which is critical to the synthesis of DNA. 

In the cytoplasm, the enzyme methionine synthase requires vitamin B12 to catalyze the conversion of homocysteine to methionine.

As a byproduct of this reaction, a methyl group is transferred from methyltetrahydrofolate (methyl-THF). That converts methyl-THF to THF, which is then converted to intermediates used in synthesizing pyrimidine bases of DNA.

In cases of low levels of vitamin B12, homocysteine levels accumulate as it cannot be converted to methionine. As a result, methyl-THF would not be converted to THF. It means the pyrimidine bases cannot be formed, and that slows DNA synthesis.

3. Plays an essential role in cell metabolism

Vitamin B12 is important for many of the chemical reactions that occur in living cells. 

These reactions can be broadly divided into catabolic reactions (that convert nutrients to energy) and anabolic reactions (that help synthesize larger biomolecules).

Vitamin B12 is a cofactor for enzymes in the different cellular reactions that allow organisms to grow and reproduce, maintain their structures, and respond to their environment. 

4. Crucial for the development of brain and nerve cells

Vitamin B12 is required for de novo DNA synthesis and methylation, critical for rapid cell division and growth in the brain and nervous system.

Vitamin B12 plays a critical role in the following:

  • Synaptogenesis - the formation of synapses between neurons in the nervous system. Synapses allow neurons to transmit electrical or chemical signals to one another for learning and memory formation.
  • Myelination - the process by which an insulating sheath (called myelin) forms around nerves (including those of the brain and spinal cord). Myelin allows electrical signals to transmit quickly and efficiently along the nerve cells.
  • Neurotransmitter synthesis - the formation of neurotransmitters, the chemical substances that affect the transfer of impulses from one nerve to another.

These are processes that are essential to cognitive development and functioning. Thus, vitamin B12 is key in cognitive development and ultimate cognitive functioning. Low vitamin B12 levels impair these processes, causing neural damage and brain atrophy, leading to cognitive decline.

For example, vitamin B12 deficiency has been associated with memory loss and dementia, especially in older adults. Studies have also shown that vitamin B12 slows mental decline, especially when taken with omega-3 fatty acids.

However, while vitamin B12 supplementation can slow cognitive decline, it is likely ineffective in improving cognitive function in those without a deficiency.

5. Decreases risk of heart disease and stroke

Vitamin B12 helps to keep your homocysteine levels low and your arteries pliable, reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Vitamin B12 is a cofactor for the enzyme methionine synthase in converting the amino acid homocysteine to methionine. In cases of low levels of vitamin B12, homocysteine accumulates.

Sadly, a high homocysteine level (called hyperhomocysteinemia) is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, as it can contribute to arterial damage and blood clots in blood vessels.

Studies show that each 5-μmol/L increase above 10 μmol/L of serum homocysteine is associated with a 20% increased risk of circulatory health problems. Thus, by helping to keep homocysteine levels down, vitamin B12 decreases the risk of atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.

6. Boosts energy levels and mood

Vitamin B12 helps break down the glucose in carbohydrates into ATP, an organic compound that fuels your cells with energy.

Much has been said about vitamin B12 as an energy booster, with many people recommending that you pop a Vitamin B12 when you need an energy boost.

Vitamin B12 does play a role in boosting energy levels but only under certain conditions

B12 drives energy through a complex dance of metabolism. It helps convert food into usable energy by breaking down carbohydrates into adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is the energy currency of the cells, as it provides the energy required for the circulation of blood, muscle contraction, locomotion, and various body movements. 

So, vitamin B12 doesn’t provide energy itself. It only helps to release energy for your body to use. However, it boosts energy levels in only those deficient in the vitamin.

That is, vitamin B12 does not appear to increase the energy levels of people with sufficient levels of the vitamin. On the other hand, people who have vitamin B12 deficiency will get an energy boost when they pop a vitamin B12.

7. Treats anemia

The role of Vitamin B12 in the formation of functional red blood cells means they help prevent anemia.

With low vitamin B12 levels, your body cannot make enough red blood cells. Worse still, the few red blood cells produced do not develop properly and, as a result, do not function properly.

This causes megaloblastic anemia, a condition where your red blood cells do not effectively carry oxygen from your lungs to your tissues because they are unusually large and structurally abnormal. Symptoms of the condition include fatigue, lightheadedness, and paleness of the skin.

Vitamin B12 dietary supplements help form healthy red blood cells in people suffering from megaloblastic anemia. This improves the oxygen-carrying ability of the blood cells and reduces symptoms of the condition.

8. Reduces risk of macular degeneration

The role of vitamin B12 in reducing homocysteine levels means it also reduces the risk of age-related macular degeneration, an eye disease that affects central vision.

Reduces risk of macular degeneration

Elevated levels of homocysteine are risk factors for macular degeneration. Different research links hyperhomocysteinemia with an increased risk of age-related macular degeneration

Interestingly, vitamin B12 helps convert homocysteine into methionine, thereby lowering the amino acid levels in the bloodstream to reduce the risk of macular degeneration.

An expansive study of 5,000 females aged 40 and older showed that vitamin B12 reduces the risk of age-related macular degeneration, especially when supplemented with folic acid and vitamin B6.

Different studies have also shown that vitamin B12 helps improve symptoms of dry eye syndrome. Researchers believe vitamin B12 may repair the nerves on the eye’s outer surface (cornea).

What happens when you have vitamin B12 deficiency?

Not meeting your body’s daily needs for vitamin B12 result in vitamin B12 deficiency, a nutritional disorder that causes many symptoms, including neurological and psychological symptoms.

When you have a vitamin B12 deficiency, you’ll experience not only physical symptoms, but also neurological and psychological symptoms.

General physical symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency 

When your body’s needs for vitamin B12 are not met, you will start experiencing the following symptoms: 

  • Feeling weak and very tired
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Sore mouth or tongue
  • Yellowish skin
  • Diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting

Neurological symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency 

Here are the neurological symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency:

  • Numbness or tingling in the fingers and toes
  • Muscle weakness
  • Vision problems
  • Poor balance
  • Seizure

Psychological symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency 

Your psychological well-being will also be affected by vitamin B12 deficiency, and you might experience:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Confused thinking
  • Memory loss and dementia.

People at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency

People at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency are those who do not take in enough vitamin B12 (such as vegans) or those with conditions preventing their bodies from fully absorbing the vitamin B12 they take in (such as people with gastrointestinal disorders).

Know that vitamin B12 deficiency is caused by one of two things - you are not taking in enough vitamin B12, or your body is not properly absorbing the vitamin B12 you take in.

That said, those at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency are:

Vegetarians and vegans

Vitamin B12 is mainly found in animal foods like meat, fish, and dairy products. As a result, people who follow a plant-based vegetarian or vegan diet have a higher chance of vitamin B12 deficiency.

Older adults

Older adults

As people age, their ability to absorb the vitamin B12 they take in decreases. This is because older adults develop problems with the stomach acids needed to absorb the vitamin.

For example, older adults generally have lower stomach acid due to a weakening of the stomach lining.

People with pernicious anemia

Pernicious anemia is an autoimmune disease that attacks and potentially destroys the gut cells that make intrinsic factor protein.

Intrinsic factor is a protein that helps your intestines absorb vitamin B12. Unfortunately, people with pernicious anemia have very little intrinsic factor and hence cannot absorb vitamin B12 properly even if they consume much of it. Thus, people with pernicious anemia will have a vitamin B deficiency.

People with gastrointestinal disorders

Diseases that affect the digestive system can throw off the acid and enzymes in the stomach, preventing your body from fully absorbing the vitamin B12 you take in.

Digestive disorders that can prevent you from absorbing vitamin B and make you deficient in the vitamin include Crohn’s disease and celiac disease.

People who have had gastrointestinal surgeries

Many gastrointestinal surgeries result in changes in stomach acid secretion, making it difficult to absorb vitamin B12.

So, people who’ve had gastrointestinal surgeries such as gastric bypass (weight loss surgery) or bowel resection surgery would have difficulty absorbing vitamin B12 and would be deficient.

People on certain medications

Certain medications affect the stomach’s ability to produce acids, thereby impairing the absorption of vitamin B12 and causing a deficiency.

These medications include proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and Histamine H2 receptors agonists (H2 blockers), which are used to treat indigestion, heartburn, and GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease).

How does my body absorb vitamin B12?

The body absorbs vitamin B12 in two steps as follows:

  • Step 1: Hydrochloric acid in the stomach separates the vitamin from the protein it’s attached to.
  • Step 2: The freed vitamin B12 combines with intrinsic factor protein made by the gut cells, making it easy for the body to absorb.

When you eat animal products rich in vitamin B12, the body absorbs the vitamin in these two steps.

However, vitamin B12 in dietary supplements is not attached to protein. So, when you take vitamin B12 supplements, your body does not require the first step to absorb the vitamin. The vitamin B12 combines with intrinsic factor straightaway to be absorbed by the body.

Where the body does not produce enough intrinsic factor protein, you may need to bypass the first and second steps above to get your daily vitamin B12 needs. This happens via a B12 shot or by taking a high-dose B12 supplement which can be absorbed through a 3rd process known as "passive diffusion".

The body absorbs less than 1% of the B12 consumed via passive diffusion, which is why it's important to take a B12 at a concentration of at least 100x the daily recommended value (the body will simply excrete the excess in urine), such as a full dose of the Why Not Natural B12.

Doctors can also treat pernicious anemia causing severe deficiency with vitamin B12 shots. B12 is injected straight into the muscle. Thus, the vitamin doesn’t need to be freed from food or to combine with intrinsic factors to be absorbed.

Takeaway - Get your daily vitamin B12 needs and feel better naturally

Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient found in animal food and B12-fortified foods. Though the body cannot make vitamin B12, it needs the water-soluble vitamin for various functions.

Vitamin B12 helps form red blood cells and DNA, plays a crucial role in cell metabolism, helps the development of brain and nerve cells, boosts energy levels and mood, decreases the risk of heart disease and stroke, helps treat anemia, and reduces the risk of macular degeneration.

The recommended daily intake (RDI) for vitamin B12 is 2.4 mcg (microgram) for people over 14 years and 2.6 mcg for pregnant women. Many people meet this through diet.

However, if you have dietary restrictions that interfere with vitamin B12 intake or health problems that interfere with its absorption, then taking B12 supplements is necessary. Supplements will help you fill nutritional gaps, ensuring you get your vitamin B12 recommended dietary allowance for proper body functioning.

For 100% natural vitamin B12 supplements that work, the go-to store is Why Not Natural. We have three excellent vitamin B12 supplement options.

100% natural vitamin B12 supplements

The first is Why Not Natural Methylcobalamin B12 Dietary Supplement. It is 100% natural, highly potent, and uses the bioactive form of B12 readily absorbed by the body. It has a graduated dropper for easy dosing. Lastly, it has an organic cherry flavor, giving it a delicious taste.

The second is Why Not Natural Methyl B12 + Folate Dietary Supplement. This supplement adds the goodness of folate to vitamin B12, making it excellent for men and women of childbearing age (for reproductive benefits). It’s also 100% natural, highly potent, and readily absorbable. Plus, it has a dropper for easy dosing.

The third option is the Why Not Natural B Complex, which contains all 8 B vitamins. It's tangerine flavored, uses the bioavailable form of B12 and all other B vitamins, and also contains a marked dropper for easy dosing.

Want to feel better naturally? Get Why Not Natural dietary supplements for natural energy, mood, and memory boost.

8 Reasons Why  Vitamin B12 Is Important

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