How Does Vitamin B12 Help the Body (9 Benefits)
Vitamin B12 offers various benefits to our body, such as aiding in the creation of healthy red blood cells, shielding the brain and heart from illnesses, potentially enhancing mood and alleviating depression symptoms.
Additionally, it may contribute to maintaining a healthy skin.
In this article, we will delve into the benefits of B12 and the signs of a B12 deficiency. So, let's get started.
What is vitamin B12, and what does it do?
Vitamin B12 (or cobalamin) is an essential nutrient our body needs for various purposes. It's involved in processes like the production of healthy red blood cells. It also sustains the brain and nervous system function. And it is involved in protecting our eyes from age-related macular degeneration.
Because it's an essential nutrient, it can't be produced by our body alone. Therefore, vitamin B12 deficiency can be very common in people. It's especially true for people on a vegetarian or vegan diet.
We can obtain it naturally by consuming animal foods. However, vegan diets lack animal products like dairy products. Hence, they tend to have a higher risk of inducing vitamin B12 deficiency.
Therefore, vegans rely on dietary supplements for their recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin B12.
Currently, the RDA for adults is 2.4 micrograms (mcg). However, people who are pregnant may require a higher amount. That's why they are encouraged to include fortified foods or animal products.
Besides its above-mentioned roles, vitamin B12 can also help our bodies in various ways. It's a vitally important factor in boosting our energy levels, reducing memory loss, and protecting against heart disease.
Vitamin B12 may benefit your body in several different ways. These include boosting your energy, improving your memory, and helping prevent heart disease.
Is vitamin B12 beneficial to our bodies?
Vitamin B12 is very beneficial for our bodies. It's a water-soluble vitamin involved in the normal functioning of many different tissues and organs in our body.
It helps in red blood cell formation and protects our fetuses against congenital disabilities. It also supports bone marrow production and protects against osteoporosis. Furthermore, it reduces the risk of developing macular degeneration.
It has also been linked to reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety. And scientists predict that it can protect the brain and nervous system function by reducing the loss of neurons. It can boost your body's energy levels, especially in B12-deficient people.
Some reports suggest that it can protect your heart from cardiovascular disease. And it might even support the growth of healthy skin and nails, besides improving hair health.
Therefore, as you can see, vitamin B12 is a very important intrinsic factor for our bodies. It's required for the healthy growth of many cells across our body. And it supports many processes in our bodies.
These healthy cells and processes protect the body against many diseases. That's why vitamin B12 deficiency can cause many extremely unpleasant, even debilitating symptoms.
And a vegan diet is one of the risk factors that can cause you to develop a vitamin B12 deficiency. Let's talk a little more about what vitamin B12 is deficiency and how we can treat it.
What is B12 deficiency, and how can it be treated?
Vitamin B12 deficiency is a nutritional disorder that occurs when we don't get enough vitamin B12 in our body. It can affect several different processes. And severe deficiency can lead to debilitating symptoms. However, it can be treated easily using vitamin B12 supplements.
It can cause atrophic gastritis. That's a disease in which the lining of our stomach thins down. This can lead to peptic ulcer disease if it goes untreated.
It can also cause megaloblastic anemia. That happens when your body starts producing larger red blood cells than normal red blood cells and the number of red blood cells decreases in our body. This means there aren't enough red blood cells to meet the oxygen demand. As a result, we feel tired or drained.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can also cause pernicious anemia. That's a type of megaloblastic anemia in which it becomes harder for the body to absorb vitamin B12. This disease usually occurs due to a lack of intrinsic factor.
Vitamin B12 deficiency also affects the intestines. It can cause different digestive disorders like Crohn's disease or celiac disease. Severe cases may require gastrointestinal surgery.
One of the more uncommon symptoms includes an inflamed tongue.
Not having enough vitamin B12 can affect immune function as well. It may cause autoimmune disease. There have been reports that link vitamin B12 deficiency to Grave's disease and even lupus.
Poor memory performance is caused by cognitive decline. This can also result in a diagnosis of early-stage dementia or depression, and even seizures.
A doctor can easily determine your levels of Vitamin B12 using a blood test.
The good news is that a deficiency of vitamin B12 can be easily treated using different supplements. You can also improve the blood levels of vitamin B12 by eating rich food sources.
However, it's usually easier and faster to take supplements. That's why health professionals often recommend taking them. However, it's understandable if you are a little wary of taking supplements.
Don't worry. There are some completely organic supplements on the market. Taking them is similar to consuming natural food sources of vitamin B12. Here are some organic vitamin B12 drops in cherry flavor to help you boost your vitamin B12 blood levels.
In severe cases, we may need to treat individual symptoms too. That's especially true for pernicious anemia. We need to treat pernicious anemia and vitamin B12 deficiency together.
There are also some injections available to treat vitamin B12 deficiency. They can be injected intramuscularly.
Who is at an increased risk of a Vitamin B12 deficiency?
Several different groups are at an increased risk of developing vitamin B12 deficiency. These include people who have had surgery recently and people on certain medications. It also includes those who are on a vegan diet.
Over 3% of adults in the US don't get enough vitamin B12. And around 26% get barely enough of this essential nutrient.
The important thing isn't just getting enough, however: you can develop the deficiency if you don't get enough vitamin B12 or if your body can't absorb it properly.
Older adults, people with gastrointestinal problems, vegans and vegetarians, people who use metformin, and people who use proton pump inhibitors are at a greater risk of developing the deficiency.
Older adults don't produce enough hydrochloric acid in their stomachs. This leads to reduced absorption of vitamin B12. That's why taking proton pump inhibitors causes a deficiency. That's because they reduce the levels of hydrochloric acid in our stomachs even more.
What are the Vitamin B12 food sources?
Vitamin B12 can be found in many different animal products.
These include fish, shellfish, liver red meat, eggs, poultry, dairy products, fortified nutritional yeast, fortified breakfast cereals, and fortified plant-based foods like enriched soy milk.
We can obtain active vitamin B12 exclusively through animal foods. However, some types of plant foods do contain vitamin B12. These include seaweeds and fermented foods. But this type of vitamin isn't active. Therefore, this inactive form is known as pseudovitamin B12.
You can also get it from nutritional yeast. However, it's only found in fortified nutritional yeast. Certain fortified foods, like plant milk, may also be enriched with vitamin B12. However, vegan diets often pose an increased risk of developing a deficiency.
9 Health benefits of taking B12 supplements
There are several benefits of taking B12 dietary supplements. Let's take a look at some of them.
1. Red blood cell formation and anemia prevention
Vitamin B12 helps in the formation of healthy red blood cells.
Low levels of vitamin B can cause red blood cells to increase in size. The increase in their size also reduces their number in our bodies.
Because of their large shape, they can't move out of the bone marrow and enter the bloodstream. As a result, the body faces a shortage of oxygen carriers. This causes megaloblastic anemia.
The anemia results in a shortage of oxygen which translates into fatigue and shortness of breath.
2. Prevention of major congenital disabilities
Several studies have shown that vitamin B12 is important in pregnant women. It's required to develop the fetus's brain and nervous system.
A deficiency in early pregnancy can cause certain congenital disabilities. These include neural tube defects. And in certain cases, the deficiency has been linked to miscarriage or premature birth.
For instance, in one case, it was found that women who had vitamin B12 levels lower than 250 mg/dL were thrice as likely to have a baby with congenital disabilities.
Those with levels lower than 150 mg/dL were five times as likely to have a child with a congenital disability as those whose vitamin B12 levels were higher than 400 mg/dL.
3. Support bone health and prevent osteoporosis
Adequate vitamin B12 levels help to sustain the health of our bones.
Scientists conducted a study on 110 people with celiac disease. They found that males had lower bone mineral density in the femur and hips if they had a B12 deficiency.
This can increase the risk of osteoporosis over time. Several studies have shown that low levels of B12 are often linked to reduced bone health. This causes osteoporosis and increases the risk of fractures.
4. Reduce your risk of macular degeneration
Macular degeneration is an eye disease. It affects the quality of your vision. Vitamin B12 protects against the development of this disease.
B12 is believed to be linked to lower homocysteine levels. This is an amino acid found in our body. High levels of homocysteine are associated with an increased risk of developing this disease.
In one study, scientists gave B12, folic acid, and B6 to over 5000 women over 40. The group receiving the supplements had fewer cases of age-related macular degeneration than the control group. The risk was as low as 34%.
5. Improve mood and alleviate symptoms of depression
B12's effect on food needs to be elucidated. However, this vitamin is involved in the production of a neurotransmitter called serotonin. Serotonin is involved in the regulation of mood in our bodies.
Because of its role in the production of serotonin, scientists believe that B12 regulates our mood.
A study found that people who had depression were more likely to feel better if they were given B12 supplements and antidepressants together compared to people who only received the antidepressants.
However, in another study, scientists found that B12 deficiency was associated with depression in older females only.
6. Improve cognitive function and prevent the loss of neurons
B12 deficiency has been implicated in memory loss, especially in the elderly. Scientists predict that B12 is involved in preventing brain atrophy. That's the phenomenon that leads to a reduction in the number of neurons in our brains. This causes dementia and poor memory.
Studies have shown that taking B12 and omega-3 fatty acids may reduce mental decline.
Some studies have shown that even a borderline deficiency in B12 can reduce memory performance and cause cognitive decline.
However, B12 supplements aren't likely to help improve cognitive function in those who don't have a deficiency.
7. Give you an energy boost
B12 is involved in improving the energy levels in our bodies.
These vitamins don't provide energy themselves when they get metabolized. They don't have calorific values like the other nutrients. However, they are involved in boosting energy production by catalyzing several processes.
Right now, we don't know if B12 supplements can improve the energy levels of people who don't have a deficiency of this vitamin. However, for deficient people, B12 supplements can significantly boost your body's energy production.
One of the most common symptoms of B12 deficiency is decreased energy. You would feel fatigued even with enough sleep. And it usually presents during the early stages.
8. Improve heart health by lowering the amino acid homocysteine
B12 helps in reducing homocysteine levels. High levels of this amino acid are associated with heart disease.
Currently, no scientific evidence supports that B12 can offer a chemoprotective effect against heart disease.
However, scientists predict that it can reduce the risk of developing the disease, but more research is needed to confirm its role in heart health.
9. Growth of healthy hair, skin, and nails
Low levels of B12 have been involved in various dermatological diseases. These include the following:
- changes in hair
- vitiligo, which is the loss of skin color in various patches
- and angular stomatitis, which is inflamed or cracked corners of the mouth.
Supplementing the diet with B12 has been shown to improve skin health when people are deficient in B12.
Takeaway: The bottom line is - take your B12 supplements
Vitamins and minerals are important components of our diet. Not including B12 in your diet can lead to various symptoms. These include fatigue, depression, and even gastrointestinal problems.
Sometimes, even low levels of B12 can cause different problems and diseases. These can include a decline in cognitive function and memory loss.
Therefore, we must maintain a healthy intake of B12. We can get it through our diet, but it can be challenging to meet the RDA if you are a vegetarian or a vegan.You can instead opt for supplements. There are many organic supplements out there that can help you meet your RDA value for different nutrients. These supplements are completely organic and help you live a healthier life.