Another name of vitamin B12 is cobalamin, and it was the last discovered vitamin. In the forties of the last century, a substance that cured pernicious anemia, a potentially lethal illness that mostly affects adults, was discovered in the calf’s liver. It is the only vitamin that is stored in the body in large quantities, mainly in the liver.
Vitamin B12 absorption is very complex: with sufficient gastric acid, by the digestive enzymes, this vitamin is released from food. It then binds to the so-called internal factor (protein produced by stomach mucosal cells) and goes into the small intestine, where absorption occurs. In older people, a reduced gastric acid secretion or the formation of an internal factor appears to occur, and both are possible causes of reduced absorption. But, since the vitamin B12 stocks are very large, the deficit occurs only after a few years.
How does it work?
Vitamin B12 is essential for the distribution of all cells, and is especially important for the production of red blood cells. It also maintains the myelin, the nerve ”shell”, helps in transforming food into energy, and plays an important role in generating cellular genetic material – DNA and RNA molecules.
PREVENTION: moderately elevated levels of homocysteine (substances similar to amino acids) are associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Vitamin B12, together with folic acid, contributes to the degradation of this substance and thus reduces the mentioned risk. In addition, it has a beneficial effect on the nerves and can be useful in preventing many neurological disorders such as a weakened sensation and numbness that appear in the people with diabetes. It seems that vitamin B12 also participate in the treatment of depression.
ADDITIONAL USEFUL EFFECTS: research has shown that the reduced level of vitamin B12 is common in people with Alzheimer’s disease. For now, it is unaware whether it contributes to the development of the disease or is its only consequence. What is known is that this substance is important for the health of the immune system. Research has shown that this vitamin extends the period between the HIV infection and development of AIDS. Other studies have shown that adequate vitamin B12 intake enhances the immune response in older people. Because of its beneficial effect on the nerves, it can be very useful in the treatment of tinnitus (hearing of sound in the ears when no sound is present), a disease that sometimes occurs due to damage to the nerve membrane.
How many vitamin B12 is needed?
The recommended daily intake dose of this substance for adults is 1.5 μg. Nutritional supplements may be needed for older people and vegans (people who do not consume both meat and dairy products).
IF YOU TAKE TOO LITTLE: symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency are tiredness, depression, weakened sensation and limb weakness due to nerve damage, muscle weakness, confusion and memory loss. Dementia and pernicious anemia may also occur. If discovered early, both diseases can be cured.
With age, the level of vitamin B12 in the body decreases. This is especially dangerous for people with ulcers, people with Crohn’s disease and other digestive disorders; the same goes for those who take drugs for epilepsy, chronic bad digestion or gout. Excessive alcohol consumption makes absorption mor difficult.
IF YOU TAKE TOO MUCH: excess ammounts of vitamin B12 are easily excreted by urine, meaning that no adverse effects are known and reported.
How to take it?
DOSAGE: in the prevention of heart disease, pernicious anemia, weakened sensation and tiredness, tinnitus and multiple sclerosis, doses up to 1000 μg are taken per day. Higher doses are required is a patient has vitamin B12 deficiency. If too little internal factor is created, you need injections or nasal spray with that vitamin. Ask your doctor for instructions and guidelines.
USE GUIDELINES: vitamin B12 is best taken in the morning with 400 μg of folic acid. Most multivitamin preparations contain the recommended amount of this vitamin and folic acid, and in the B-complex the doses are even higher. For therapeutic effect, it is best to take dietary supplements that contain only vitamin B12 and folic acid. If lingering tablets are taken, the absorption is better.
The main source of vitamin B12 is food of animal origin, but plenty of it is in entrails, brewer’s yeast, oysters, sardines and other fish, eggs, meat and cheese. Many cereal flakes that we eat for breakfast are enriched with it.
IMPORTANT: if you are taking vitamin B12 supplements, you should also take folic acid; a large intake of one substance can mask a deficiency of the other.