Do you know that vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient in vitamin B complex that our body needs in the small amount to function and stay healthy? Vitamin B12 is also known as Cobalamin and is water soluble. It has several forms including cyanocobalamin, methyl-cobalamin, hydroxy-cobalamin. For many ailments, experts recommend taking vitamin B12 rich foods or supplements. So what are the health benefits of vitamin B12? Let us understand about it in detail.
The cyano- form of cobalamin is found in trace amount in food and is used as supplements. The other forms of cobalamin are required as co-factors. It contributes to normal functioning of the central nervous system, production of energy and successful synthesis of DNA, the genetic material of all cells. It helps to prevent megaloblastic anemia that makes people tired and weak. Vitamin B12 in serum is bound to a protein known as Transcobalamin (TC).
Vitamin B12 – Sources & Absorption
In the gastrointestinal tract, vitamin B12 is synthesized by certain bacteria and is then absorbed by the host animal. Vitamin B12 is only found in food of animal origin as it is concentrated in animal tissues. Foods highly rich in vitamin B12 are:
- Beef and lamb
- Dairy food
Vegans can be more prone to vitamin B12 deficiency because there are no naturally occurring bioactive forms of vitamin B12 from the plant source. It is important to know about the sources and absorption of this essential nutrient, as the health benefits of vitamin B12 are many. It can not only protect you from many illnesses but it also plays a key role int eh treatment of several disorders.
Vitamin B12 absorption from food occurs in two forms:
- In food, vitamin B12 is attached to a protein. Hydrochloric acid in stomach separates vitamin B12 from this protein.
- Then vitamin B12 combines with the intrinsic factor (a protein made by the stomach) and this complex is then absorbed by the body.
Some people have trouble absorbing vitamin B12 from foods and dietary supplements as they have pernicious anemia (a condition in which body cannot make the protein which helps vitamin B12 to get absorbed by the body by binding to it.)
What Are The Health Benefits Of Vitamin B12?
If you are wondering what are the health benefits of vitamin B12, this is an important piece of information. Let’s see what makes vitamin B12 an essential nutrient for proper body functioning and healthy lifestyle. It functions as an essential substance and the health benefits of vitamin B12 are as follows.
Boosts Energy Production:
The major health benefits of vitamin B12 is to provide required energy. It is needed to convert complex carbohydrates into simpler glucose chains in the body that are used by the cells to gain energy. Thus, leading energy production and a decrease in fatigue which is one of the most common early sign of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Boost Brain and Nerve health by Preventing Loss of Neurons and Nerve Damage:
Nerves have myelin sheath (protecting covering), to keep them safe from free radicals and toxins in the blood. Without these coverings, exposed nerves get damaged and can even die. One of the main health benefits of vitamin B12 includes preventing and managing nerve related problems. It is believed that vitamin B12 plays a role in nerve-related condition as these dead nerves disrupt signals to and from the brain. Vitamin B12 supports to replenish protective covering and helps to protect nerve cells. It also helps to prevent brain atrophy (loss of neurons). It helps to protect the myelin sheath of brain cells that often lack in Alzheimer’s patient. According to research, Alzheimer’s patients have much lower levels of vitamin B12 than those of similar age who have clear and sharp memory. We know Alzheimer’s disease is a multi-factor disease, but this nutrient can help prevent Alzheimer’s by maintaining healthy nerve cells. In elderly patients, cobalamin deficiency may cause a type of dementia.
Prevents Neurologic and Psychiatric Disturbances:
Vitamin B12 plays an important role in neurotransmitter signaling and nerve health. Therefore, vitamin B12 deficiency may cause various neurologic and psychiatric disturbances such as mood disorders, stress, depression, and anxiety. Vitamin B12 help produce brain chemicals which are responsible for better mood and helps to treat depression, anxiety disorders and stress. This too is one of the noteworthy health benefits of vitamin B12. It benefits cognitive processes (learning, concentration etc.) and helps in healthy regulation of the nervous system by lowering the risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, dementia etc. SAM (S-adenosyl methionine) is a compound produced by one-carbon metabolism, a process in which vitamin B12 with folate is needed as major determinants. Sam is a crucial compound for mood regulation and neurological function. Cobalamin is useful in neural regeneration by increasing regeneration of axons and promoting neural repair.
The Successful Synthesis of DNA:
The health benefits of vitamin B12 also extend to DNA synthesis. Vitamin B12 deficiency leads to slow down DNA replication, which leads to slower DNA synthesis, this making it an essential nutrient for good health.
Vitamin B12 and its health benefits also include the production of red blood cells (RBCs). Due to low levels of vitamin B12, RBC formation reduces, and they can’t develop properly. RBCs become larger and oval whereas, healthy RBCs are small and round. RBCs are unable to move properly from bone marrow into the bloodstream at inappropriate rate due to irregular shape and size, this cause megaloblastic anemia.
Vitamin B12 Boost Immune System By Reducing The Risk Of Some Diseases:
Of the many health benefits of vitamin B12, it is believed that it may reduce the risk of some diseases like
- Macular degeneration – It is an eye disease which affects central vision. Vitamin B12 decreases homocysteine (common amino acid, whose increased levels can cause age-related macular degeneration) levels in the blood. Thus, one of the important health benefits of vitamin B12 also includes prevention of age-related macular degeneration.
- Cardiovascular diseases – Increased homocysteine levels can damage the blood vessel and can cause fatal diseases such as atherosclerosis, venous thrombosis etc. Vitamin B12 helps to regulate the level of this amino acid in the blood. Thus, another health benefit of vitamin B12 is that it helps in prevention of heart diseases.
- Cancer: Vitamin B12 protects against cancers including colon, lung, breast etc. According to research, supplementation of vitamin B12 with folate has reduced the risk of a certain types of cancers.
- Skin disease: Vitamin B12 cream can help treat some serious skin problems like eczema. It can also decrease inflammation and its health benefits also cover management of inflammatory disorders.
- Alzheimer’s disease: Alzheimer’s disease is a multi-factor disease, but this nutrient can help prevent Alzheimer’s by maintaining healthy nerve cells.
Look and Feel Beautiful and Young:
The health benefits of vitamin B 12 range from wellness to beauty and antiaging. Ageing happens when DNA doesn’t replicate correctly (can be due to many factors such as high blood sugar, free radicals, and toxins in blood etc.) and cells begin to wear and tear, Vitamin B12 supports DNA synthesis and keeps your look younger. It also helps in cell reproduction and constant renewal of skin. Therefore, it is essential for healthy skin. It is also essential for healthy hair as it prevents hair fall and boosts hair growth. Vitamin B12 helps in the production of RBCs which carry oxygen. Roots of hair have tiny blood vessels which carry oxygen to hair, thereby boosting hair growth. Nails are formed due to the process of cell production and Vitamin B12 is an important nutrient for this process. Weak nails (which breaks even with little pressure) is a sign Vitamin B12 deficiency.
Vitamin B12 is important in producing digestive enzyme and helps to maintain a healthy digestive system. It breaks down complex compounds into simple and soluble compounds which are easier to absorb by the body. It also prevents digestive disorders by fostering healthy bacteria within the gut environment and eliminating harmful bacteria. These health benefits of vitamin B12 help in maintaining digestion and metabolism, thus keeping you healthy.
Beneficial for Pregnancy:
Vitamin B12 is also beneficial during pregnancy and lactation. As we know, DNA is a genetic material and is present in all cells. For DNA synthesis, we need Vitamin B12. Therefore, it is an important nutrient for growth and development of the fetus during pregnancy and its health benefits can protect the developing baby from various illnesses and defects.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency
To detect Vitamin B12 deficiency, level of serum vitamin B12 in blood is measured, with a blood test. The symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include
- Joint pain
- Poor memory
- Feeling tired and fatigue
- Unable to concentrate well
- Difficulty breathing
- Feeling dizzy
- Mood changes
- Having an abnormal heart problem
- Nerve pain
- Digestive problems like nausea, vomiting
- Poor appetite etc.
To prevent and overcome such problem, you must eat vitamin B12 rich foods like eggs, chicken, liver, beef etc. and can take supplements also. For vegans, a diet rich in green leafy veggies and fresh fruits is recommended. However, for any such symptoms or for a known vitamin B12 deficiency, it is best to seek medical advice and consider taking supplementation, as advised.
Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient for our body to properly function as it helps in DNA synthesis, cell production like RBC formation. There are many health benefits of vitamin B12 and its deficiency can cause many problems in daily life. Supplements and vitamin B12 rich foods are given to people with its deficiency. Vitamin B12 plays important role in almost all aspects from DNA to the skin.
- What Does Vitamin B12 Do For You & What Happens if it is Low?
- Can Vitamin B12 Help in Lowering Blood Pressure?
- Is Vitamin B12 Deficiency Fatal?
- What Are The Neurological Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
- What Are The Side Effects of Vitamin B12 Injections?
- What Is The Effect of Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
- Where Do We Get Vitamin B12 Naturally?
- Can Lack of Vitamin B12 Cause Anxiety?