Vitamin B12 Benefits

There are many important Vitamin B12 benefits. Vitamin B12, sometimes called cobalamin because it contains cobalt metal, helps the body maintain healthy nerve and red blood cells and assists in the formation of DNA, which is the genetic material present in all cells. The information on vitamin B12 you need to know includes good dietary sources and the risks of deficiency.

Sources of Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 naturally occurs in animal products, including meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy and is bound to the proteins. During the process of digestion, the hydrochloric acid produced in the stomach releases B12 from the protein, where it combines with glycoprotein that allows it to be absorbed by the intestinal tract.

Are You at Risk for Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
Vitamin B12 deficiency is relatively uncommon in healthy people who eat meat as part of their diet. Most often, deficiency occurs in individuals who have digestive or bowel disorders that impair their body's ability to absorb nutrients. For these people, simply adding oral supplements to their diet may not be enough and vitamin B12 shots or injections may be necessary.

When else you're at risk:

  • If you're currently taking medication for peptic ulcers or GERD, you should be aware that these drugs may interfere with B12 absorption, especially with long-term use.
  • Strict vegetarians and vegans should look for fortified foods like cereals and soy milk or take supplements to ensure they maintain healthy levels of B12.
  • If you're over the age of 50, it's a good idea to consult your doctor to determine your B12 levels as some people experience an age-related deficiency.
  • People who suffer from pernicious anemia-a condition characterized by a reduction in the number of red blood cells in the body, and an increase in red blood cell size-may also need B12 shots until their levels are restored to the point where only oral supplements are needed.

Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
It's important to note that the symptoms associated with a B12 deficiency aren't unique to the condition and are also associated a variety of other conditions. Don't self-diagnose; consult your physician to determine whether your B12 levels are they should be and deficiencies need to be corrected.

Common symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include anemia, fatigue, weakness and constipation; loss of appetite and weight loss; difficulty walking or balancing, and tongue soreness. Left unchecked, B12 deficiency can result in permanent nerve damage.

Vitamin B12 Toxicity
If you regularly read food labels, you've probably noticed that the nutrition facts panel doesn't list a percent daily value of the recommended dietary allowance for B12. That's because no upper limit has been established-the potential for vitamin B12 toxicity is that low. Like other water soluble vitamins, any amounts the body can't use will be eliminated (in the case of B12, in the feces).

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