Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
Vitamin B12 - also known as cobalamin, is yet another member of the water-soluble B-complex family, and the last in its group to be discovered.
This vitamin is essential for the proper metabolism of carbohydrates and fats and the synthesis of proteins.
It also aids its cousin folic acid, another B vitamin in regulating the formation of red blood cells, and helps in the utilization of iron.
Vitamin B12 prevents pernicious anemia, maintains a healthy nervous system, and it works synergistically with vitamin B6 and B9 to control blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine. Having elevated homocysteine levels appear to be linked with an increased risk of heart disease.
In addition, the B12 vitamin is required for proper digestion, absorption of foods, prevents nerve damage, aids in the production of DNA and RNA, and maintains the fatty sheaths that cover and protect nerve endings.
The body stores about 70-80% of this nutrient in the liver, and, as such, it is readily available when the need arises. Experts say that there is normally enough of this vitamin stored in a person's liver to last a year or longer. In fact, it is the only B vitamin that is stored in fairly large amounts.
Interestingly, vitamin B12 has a somewhat checkered history. Ever since that late 1940’s, researchers have known that vitamin B12 is essential to prevent pernicious anemia. Pernicious anemia is a disease that occurs mostly among older adults. But soon after its discovery in 1948, some practitioners built a thriving business of administering vitamin B12 shots, claiming it to have remarkable abilities to energize and rejuvenate. Mainstream physicians denounced the B12 therapy as quackery and even dangerous, but recent research is turning the tables. While B12 is not a magical fountain of youth vitamin, it does appear to relieve several neurological and psychological problems as well as promote a sense of well-being. In fact, many of those who are vitamin users refer to B12 as the energy vitamin.
Best Food Sources
Good sources of this vitamin include liver and other organ meats, shellfish, fish, lean meat, poultry, milk, cheese, and eggs. It is also present in sea vegetables such as nori, kelp, dulse, and kombu, and in brewer's yeast and soy products.
However, the current nutritional consensus is that sea vegetables and brewer's yeast cannot be relied on as a safe source of vitamin B12 because analyses of these products found only traces of B12.
Signs of Deficiency
A deficiency in this B vitamin can lead to the following:
Pernicious anemia (severe deficiency)
Numbness and tingling sensations
Loss of appetite
Ringing in the ears
Spinal cord degeneration
Enlargement of the liver
Side Note: It's important to note that there have been cases of suspected Alzheimer's disease that actually turned out to be B12 deficiencies. In addition, patients with Alzheimer's show low levels of the B12 vitamin.
Getting too much B12 has no known symptoms or toxicity.
Who Should Consider Vitamin B12 Supplementation
Most people who eat meat are not likely to develop a B12 vitamin deficiency. However, a B12 vitamin deficiency can be caused by malabsorption, which is most common in the elderly. Therefore, we believe middle-aged to older people (50 years and up) should meet their daily requirement mainly through either foods fortified with vitamin B12 or taking a supplement containing B12.
A vitamin B12 deficiency can also be caused by malabsorption in those with digestive disorders as well.
Certain medications can deplete B12 stores in the body such as birth-control pills, stomach acid blockers, antibiotics, and some seizure medications. Therefore, if you're taking any medications, check with your physician on whether requirements of this B vitamin need to be raised.
In addition, strict vegetarians who do not eat any eggs, meat, fish, poultry, or dairy products, and do not take B12 supplements are at risk of a B12 vitamin deficiency. Babies born to women who are strict vegetarians are also at risk of a B12 deficiency. In fact, babies born to vegetarian mothers often have low reserves. However, this can be prevented by taking B12 supplements during pregnancy and nursing.
Tips on Choosing a Supplement
1. The B vitamins work together as a team. Therefore, a deficiency in one often indicates a deficiency in another. It's important to note that a vitamin B6 deficiency reduces B12's absorption and taking any one of the B complex vitamins for a long period of time can result in an imbalance of other important B vitamins.
In addition, vitamin B12 should be taken in conjunction with a folic acid because they work synergistically with each other and too much folic acid can mask a Vitamin B12 deficiency. The important mineral calcium, moreover, is needed to help the body absorb this "B" vitamin.
For this reason, we suggest, in general, you take your vitamin B12 as a part of a comprehensive scientifically balanced formula such as a comprehensive multivitamin and mineral supplement. Exception: If your physician has recommended higher doses for therapeutic purposes.
2. Because vitamins, minerals, and other vital nutrients work in balance and synergistically with one another, it is important that consumers select a comprehensive supplement that is scientifically formulated by a top notch scientist.
3. Take time to read the product data sheet. Does the product contain artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, yeast, gluten, sucrose or dextrose?
4. Dietary supplements are not strictly regulated and, as such, manufacturers do not have to guarantee the safety, effectiveness, or even the true content of their products. In fact, the latest statistic is that 1 in 5 products will not have the ingredients proclaimed on the label or it harbors very harmful contaminates.
Therefore, we recommend that you select a supplement from only from pharmaceutical GMP compliant manufacturers, which adhere to the most stringent manufacturing standards.
Comprehensive Multi vitamin and Mineral Supplement
After years of taking and researching supplements, we here at Nutritional-Supplement-Educational-Centre personally take an all-in-one highly sophisticated comprehensive multi-nutrient product called Total Balance from Xtend-Life Natural Products of New Zealand. It contains a full spectrum of over 70 nutrients, including the B vitamins that the body needs for optimal 'whole' body health.
Total Balance is formulated by a highly credentialed scientific team that can blend these ingredients (vitamins, minerals, amino acids, specialty nutrients, enzymes, antioxidants, herbal extracts, and others) perfectly to ensure maximum benefits, but as importantly that they also do not interact adversely. Plus, Total Balance is enteric coated to protect all of these ingredients against stomach acids and to ensure maximum bio-availability.
In addition, the company meets all the above requirements for high quality products.
We here at Nutritional-Supplement-Educational-Centre have been taking Total Balance for several years now and can personally attest to its excellent results such as an increase in energy levels, mental clarity, and an increase feeling of well-being.
Always check with a physician before taking any dietary supplements.
Much more than Vitamin B12 at our Vitamin Information Center webpage