Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, is essential to maintaining our overall health and well-being. Our body alone cannot produce Vitamin B12, so it must be taken via food, supplements, or injections.
Vitamin B12 performs 7 indispensable functions in our body:
Production of Red Blood Cells
Vitamin B12 is crucial for the synthesis action of red blood cells. It involves forming and maturing red blood cells in the bone marrow. Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to megaloblastic anemia, a type of anemia characterized by large, immature red blood cells that cannot function properly. This may lead to fatigue and weakness due to insufficient oxygen supply to the organs.
Vitamin B12 is necessary for synthesizing and maintaining DNA, the genetic material found in every cell of our body. It is responsible for DNA replication and the production of new cells, including red blood cells and other body tissues.
Nervous System Function
Vitamin B12 is vital for the proper functioning of the nervous system. It helps produce myelin, a protective sheath surrounding and insulating nerve fibers, facilitating efficient nerve signal transmission. Borderline or low Vitamin B12 can lead to neurological symptoms such as numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, difficulty walking, and cognitive impairments.
Vitamin B12 helps metabolize carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, converting them into usable energy. It helps break down food molecules and produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the body's primary energy currency.
Brain Health and Cognitive Function
Adequate levels of Vitamin B12 are crucial for maintaining brain health and cognitive function. It synthesizes neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which affect mood regulation, memory, and overall mental well-being. Moreover, Vitamin B12 deficiency is associated with cognitive decline, memory problems, and an increased risk of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease.
Vitamin B12 and other B vitamins (folate and Vitamin B6) help the conversion of homocysteine, an amino acid, into methionine. Elevated levels of homocysteine in the blood are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and adequate Vitamin B12 levels are necessary to keep homocysteine levels in check.
Cell Division and Growth
Vitamin B12 is essential for proper cell division and growth, which are pivotal processes for tissue repair, growth, and tissue maintenance throughout the body. It supports the development and regeneration of cells in various tissues, including the skin, hair, nails, gastrointestinal tract, bone marrow, etc.
Vitamin B12 is primarily found in animal-based foods, such as meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products. Vegetarians and vegans may be at a higher risk of Vitamin B12 deficiency and may need to consider fortified food sources, supplementation, or injections to meet their requirements. Try consuming a balanced diet where you can get all the nutrients your body needs and contact your physician if you see any signs or symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency.