Vitamin B12 referred to as cobalamin is one of the group of 8 B vitamins. It is water-soluble and therefore the body requires constant supply of this vitamin since excess is passed out in the urine. Vitamin B12 along with the other B vitamins coverts carbohydrates to glucose that then produces energy.
Health benefits of Vitamin B12
The health benefits of vitamin B12 along with the other 8 B vitamins are critical for human beings. It is needed to maintain healthy blood cells and nervous system; it helps make DNA, prevents megaloblastic anemia and is also needed for healthy skin, teeth and hair. The following are some of the diseases that require vitamin B12.
Benefits in Pernicious Anemia : The health benefits of vitamin B12 are crucial for different types of anemia. Pernicious anemia
occurs when stomach cells cannot make intrinsic factor. Without this intrinsic factor, the body will not be able to absorb vitamin B121. Vitamin B12 helps to create, repair and maintain red blood cells in the body. When RBC matures, DNA molecules provide the information. Vitamin B12 insufficiency can result in defective synthesis of DNA and therefore the information for RBC formation is also affected. RBC become enlarged and poorly shaped and function ineffectively resulting in pernicious anemia.
A few symptoms of pernicious anemia include pale skin, weakness, weight loss, diarrhea, tingling in feet and hands, memory loss, loss of balance, and more. This is a dangerous condition and treatment that includes high doses of vitamin B12 orally or as injections must be done under medical supervision. Vitamin B12 replenishes the intrinsic factor and helps to cure pernicious and megaloblastic anemia .
Benefits to the Heart : Those with high levels of homocysteine – an amino acid – are likely to develop coronary heart disease (1.7 times higher risk) and stroke (2.5 times higher risk) than people who have normal levels of this amino acid. B complex vitamins like B12, B9 and B6 keep homocysteine at normal levels. However, there is no corroborative data to prove that high levels of homocysteine actually do cause heart disease. Those who are susceptible to heart conditions must take enough B vitamins in food form.
Recommended Dosage of Vitamin B12
Benefits for the eyes : Risk of age-related macular degeneration can be reduced in women who consume a daily quantity of 1,000 mcg vitamin B12, 2,500 mcg folic acid and 500 mg vitamin B6. Macular degeneration can result in loss of vision.
Helps in Fatigue : A major side effect of vitamin B12 deficiency is fatigue. Those who are not deficient can gain energy with vitamin B12 injections. Those who suffer from chronic fatigue can also benefit from vitamin B12 shots. Both these require more research.
Benefits for Breast Cancer : Studies have shown the health benefits of vitamin B12 in reducing breast cancer risk. Although there is no direct evidence, studies show that women with more folate in the diet will have a reduced breast cancer risk. The reason is that folate and vitamin B12 work together and reduce the risk. In a related study, postmenopausal women with diets poor in vitamin B12 had an increased risk of breast cancer.
Benefits in Dementia : Older people often suffer from dementia and this can be due to high homocysteine levels in the blood. Vitamin B12, B6 and folic acid can together lower homocysteine levels. Doctors are still unclear if this combination of vitamins actually treat or prevent dementia.
Nerve Cell Maintenance : Vitamin B12 also helps maintain a strong nervous system. Myelin sheath that coats the nerve cells is formed less successfully when vitamin B12 is deficient. Vitamin B12 supplements are also useful to relieve pain and other nervous system disorders.
DNA formation : Vitamin B12 is needed for formation of human DNA. DNA formation takes place during cell division and vitamin B12 plays a significant role in the process. If the human body lacks vitamin B12, megaloblasts or abnormal cell formation takes place. As a result, people will suffer from anemia. Hence, adequate quantities of vitamin B12 are needed in the diet.
Other Benefits of Vitamin B12 : Male infertility can be helped with vitamin B12 supplements. Sperm mobility and sperm count increased with vitamin B12 supplements, although more research is needed to prove the efficacy of this theory.
Athletic performance can be improved with vitamin B12 supplements. We see many advertisements that promote these supplements as a way to improve energy and endurance. While it does improve energy in those with a vitamin B12 deficiency, there is no proof to show that vitamin B12 supplements improve athletic performance by increasing energy. Cholesterol levels can be reduced with foods rich in Vitamin B12. It also controls triglyceride levels in the body and this in turn enables the heart to function properly.
Sickle cell anemia is a severe problem that can result in endothelial damage. Vitamin B12 is an important nutrient to treat this severe form of anemia.
Alzheimer’s disease can be treated with proper intake of vitamin B12. Alzheimer’s causes confusion, dementia, perplexity and other mental conditions. It was found that those with Alzheimer’s disease had lower amounts of vitamin B12.
Protein that is needed for repair of cells and proper growth requires vitamin B12 to be cycled properly throughout the body. If a person suffers from vitamin B12 deficiency, amino acids a key component of protein is unavailable. This in turn affects the movement of fats and carbohydrates through the body since these too depend on Vitamin B12 to complete their processing.
Foods rich in Vitamin B12
The health benefits of vitamin B12 can be enjoyed through a variety of animal foods. The richest source of vitamin B12 is shellfish, liver, kidney, pork, eggs and beef. Enriched soy and rice milk, and fortified breakfast cereals , clams, poultry, meat nutritional yeasts, dairy products like cheese and yoghurt and other sea foods like salmon, tuna and oyster3 also provide vitamin B12. Plant foods do not contain vitamin B12 unless sold as fortified foods.
Precautions when taking Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is available as multivitamins, individual supplements and complex vitamins. Invariably, doctors recommend that people take a combination of all the B vitamins and folic acid in the right doses. While vitamin B12 does not cause any harm, some medications can affect the way the body absorbs vitamin B12.
The health benefits of vitamin B12 include cell maintenance, fatigue, anemia, breast cancer, heart disease and a host of other medical conditions. Ensure that you take this essential vitamin in the right quantities to avoid these and other illnesses.