Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is one of the eight necessary B vitamins and is naturally only found in animal based foods. B12 is needed to form red blood cells and DNA.
This important nutrient is also necessary for the development of brain and nerve cells. All B vitamins are water soluble which means that the body can not store them and they should be consumed regularly.
Known for maintaining healthy nerve cells, vitamin B12 assists with the production of RNA and DNA. B vitamins often work in conjunction together to facilitate bodily processes and is often a reason why they are routinely composed together in supplement form, typically marketed as B complex. B12 and B9 work cohesively to help make red blood cells. They also work together to create a compound which helps produce and regulate hormones, with overall effects on mood and immune system function.
The B vitamins can be directly correlated to heart health because they work together to control levels of homocysteine in the blood. Typically high levels of homocysteine can be linked to heart disease. Studies have shown those with higher levels of homocysteine are at two times greater risk of developing coronary artery disease. They are also 2.5 times more likely to have a stroke than individuals who have normal homocysteine levels.
Low levels of B12 can result in symptoms of fatigue, nervousness, numbness, tingling in the extremities, diarrhea or shortness of breath. Since B12 is only found in animal products, it is important for those who abstain from eating animal products to source B12 in supplement form. While overall risk of B12 is low in most populations, some can be subject to deficiencies.
Stomach acid is necessary to absorb B12 and those who suffer from digestive issues may be at risk of B12 deficiencies. Particularly, those who have concerns with absorbing nutrients, have a history of eating disorders, had previous stomach infections, people with HIV, those with a history of diabetes or the elderly because stomach acid decreases with age. Certain medications can also decrease levels of B12 in the body and it is important to speak with a medical professional to understand if you are potentially at risk of a deficiency.
Studies have shown that B12 helps individuals with symptoms of fatigue, especially for those who are deficient in this vitamin. Research indicates that it is beneficial for those who do not have a deficiency in energy production. There have been promising results in the use of B12 in combating chronic fatigue symptoms.
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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. Vitamin supplementation is for wellness only, and not intended to cure or treat disease.