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What is Vitamin B-12?


Commonly known as the "anti-stress" vitamin, vitamin B12 is an affiliate of the vitamin B-complex group. As cobalt is one of the complex vitamins constituents, a scientific synonym for this water-soluble mineral is cobalamin.

Funtions of Vitamin B12:
The pivotal function of vitamin B12 is to aid in the formation of red blood cells in the human body. It is also vital for DNA replication during cell division. Vitamin B12 is an important quotient for maintaining the neurological health balance and the synthesis of myelin (a complex protein, constituting the sheath protecting nerve fibers) in particular with relation to the metabolism of fatty acids. It also enhances the activity of the immune system and the body's ability to withstand stressful conditions.

Sources of Vitamin B12:
The authentic sources of vitamin B12 are animal foods. Meat, dairy products, and eggs contain this vitamin in substantial amounts. A possible plant source of vitamin B12 has been the subject of ongoing research. However, the prominent line of thought is that traces of vitamin B12 present in plant foods is highly variable in terms of content and cannot be relied upon as safe sources.

Body requirement of Vitamin B12:
Vitamin B12 is an extraordinary vitamin. In comparison with other vitamins, the human body requires only a small ingestion of it. The Reference Nutrient intake (RNI) as per US standards is 4.5 mcg per day for young adult men, and 3 mcg/day for young adult women. Adults above 50 are prescribed to substantiate their diets with a greater quantity of about 10 to 25 mcg per day.

Health benefits of Vitamin B12:
The liver is the main site for storage of vitamin B12 in the human body. It accounts for 80% of the reserves out of the 2.5mg average body stock of vitamin B12. Body reserves of vitamin B12 are directly proportional to the consumption levels. Vitamin B12 is also associated with the phenomenon of enterohepatic circulation, i.e., it is excreted in the bile and is effectively reabsorbed. It is because of the twin factors of body storage and re-absorption that it takes a considerable span time for a normal person to develop a deficiency syndrome.

Another unique feature is that vitamin B12 does not rely on whole food or plant-based diet as its source. Herbivores absorb this essential from the bacteria present in the digestive system. Vitamin B12 is generally stable, but prolonged cooking can destroy its food value by a considerable degree (estimated reduction of food value is by 1/3).

Testing for vitamin B12 deficiency:
The most specific test for B12 status is methylmalonic acid (MMA) testing. The amount of vitamin B12 that comes out in the urine is measured by the Schilling test.

Additional Vitamin B12 information:
Vitamin B12 has a very low potential for toxicity, and, hence, there is no prescribed Tolerable Upper Intake Level for cobalamin. Medical experts are of opinion that its best to rely on food sources for the intake of vitamin B12.

Although required in small quantities, vitamin B12 acts as a catalyst to numerous body processes and as such is vital ingredient for the human body.

Cobolamin is needed in the manufacture of red blood cells and the maintenance of red blood cells and it stimulates appetite, promotes growth and release energy. It is often used with older people to give an energy boost, assist in preventing mental deterioration and helps with speeding up thought processes. Some people are also of the opinion that it helps with clearing up infections and provide protection against allergies and cancer. This vitamin is also used in the metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates.

In comparison to other water-soluble vitamins, vitamin B12 is not excreted in urine, but is stored in the liver, kidney and other body tissues. Hence, it might be five to six years before a person actually develops a deficiency syndrome for vitamin B12. The general notion is that body stores do no exhaust before several years.

Vitamin B12 Deficiencies:
The common symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiencies are excessive tiredness, breathlessness, listlessness, pallor and poor resistance to infection. Deficiency also can lead to neurological changes such as numbness and tingling in the hands and feet. Other symptoms may include a reduced sensitivity to pain or pressure, blurred vision, abnormal gait, sore tongue, menstrual disorders and poor concentration levels.

Rather than a dietary deficiency, a deficiency of vitamin B12 is generally associated with a malabsorption of it. In such a case, the stomach cannot produce enough of a substance called intrinsic factor (IF), which is a prerequisite for vitamin B12 absorption. Such a condition, termed pernicious anemia, is an autoimmune dysfunction, wherein the bodys immune system attacks its own tissues. Vegetarians maybe at a risk for facing deficiencies caused by dietary reasons, since the only confirmed source for vitamin B12 intake is the animal source.

Vitamin B12 is essential for the formation of red blood cells, and a short supply of it causes anemia. A deficiency in Vitamin B12 also results in the disruption of DNA production, and as a result, abnormal cells called megaloblasts occur, leading to megaloblastic anemia.

Vitamin B12 deficiency is also linked with several neurological and psychological disorders. A lack of cobalamin results in cognitive decline, nerve degeneration and irreversible neurological damage particularly for adults above fifty. Breast-fed infants of women who follow strict vegetarian diets have very limited reserves of this vitamin, and if undetected, vitamin B12 deficiency in infants can result in permanent neurological damage. Depression, dementia and Alzheimer's disease are also caused due to a shortage of vitamin B12.

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