Vitamin B12 is a member of the water-soluble vitamins of the B complex group. It is also known as cobalamin. It is mainly derived from dietary intake of foods of animal origin such as meat, eggs, fish and poultry, other artificial products fortified with the vitamin. The micronutrient is required in the body for production of red blood cells, regulation of homocysteine metabolism, manufacture of DNA (genetic material) and proper mental functioning.
Regulation of Vitamin B12 Levels in the Body
Upon dietary intake of foods rich in the vitamin, and being water soluble, it easily moves across the gut lumen into circulation by active transport and diffusion aided by a protein known as intrinsic factor. It is then transported in the body by the help of transcobalamin. Hence, deficiency can occur with adequate intake in cases where there is lack of transporting molecules (pernicious anemia) or when the function of the gut is compromised such as after gastric surgery for weight loss and in diseases such as Crohn’s disease and celiac disease. However, the largest cause remains inadequate dietary intake as seen with pure vegetarian diet. Up to 3 mg can be absorbed from the diet everyday, but only 2 to 3 mcg is required by the body to undertake various functions and replenish the rich vitamin B12 reserve of up to 30 mg that is found in an adult human body, thus deficiency of vitamin B12 requires a long time to occur.
Excessive levels of vitamin B12 may also be noted in circulation and this suggests the possibility of disorders such as chronic liver disease, chronic kidney disease or myeloproliferative disorders. These patients must be monitored for calcium deficiency.
Can Vitamin B12 Help in Lowering Blood Pressure?
Association of Vitamin B12 Levels and Blood Pressure
Vitamin B12 has an indirect relationship with tissue oxygenation as it is required in the manufacture of cells used in the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to peripheral tissues (red blood cells). A reduction in the level of vitamin B12 in circulation leads to reduced red blood cell production and hence inadequate tissue perfusion. This causes an increase in blood pressure as the body tries to perfuse the tissues by increasing the amount of blood that reaches peripheral tissues.
In addition to this, reduction of vitamin B12 in the body leads to increase in the level of homocysteine. This amino acid is directly associated with heart failure and stroke as well as the intermediate state of elevated blood pressure as demonstrated by the American Heart Association (AHA). Homocysteine increases the development of atherosclerosis that causes arterial wall thickening and reduction in compliance necessitates the increase in blood pressure to overcome this resistance leading to hypertension.
Benefits of Vitamin B12 Supplements in the Control of Blood Pressure
Given the direct relationship of low vitamin B12 levels and hypertension, vitamin B12 supplementation is being carried out on a prophylactic basis in various clinics, more so the weight loss clinics as these patients are at a higher risk of developing vitamin deficiency compared to the general population.
Deficiency is indicated by onset of signs and symptoms such as megaloblastic anemia altered sensations and abnormal behavior. Supplementation can be enteral, but parenteral routes are preferred in patients whose guts may not be fully functional as absorption is not optimal.
Therefore, vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin with body reserves enough to last more than 6 months without any further intake. The vitamin is critical for body functions such as red blood cell production and homocysteine regulation, which provide a direct regulation of atherosclerosis and blood pressure control.
To prevent the occurrence of hypertension secondary to vitamin deficiency, parenteral supplements are carried out in patients at risk such as those under weight loss clinic follow-ups after gastrectomy.
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