The benefits of vitamin b12. Why vitamin b12 is important
Why vitamin b12 is important
The issue of vitamins and supplements (including the benefits of vitamin b12) sometimes becomes a controversial topic depending on who you speak to and most time both sides have decent arguments. However, one thing experts and nonexperts seem to agree on is the fact that we need vitamins and minerals for the body to function well.
Further to that, there are more questions about which ones are needed more than the other, how we obtain these vitamins and minerals and the extent to which these vitamins and minerals may help the body.
This article seeks to provide some information on the scientific evidence around the benefits of vitamin B12.
Why vitamin b12 deficiency?
Vitamin B12 is one of the most common vitamins that are known to be deficient in people primarily because of the inadequate consumption of animal foods. In other cases, malabsorption of vitamin b12 also results in its deficiency. Vegetarians or vegans also stand a risk of being deficient in Vitamin B12 just like other groups of people with low intake of animal foods or those with restrictive dietary patterns.
Read about all the B Vitamins
Recent studies have suggested that Vitamin B12 deficiency is more common and it may have disease implications associated with it. The rates of sub-clinical deficiency of vitamin B12 are high in developing countries (such as countries in Africa; Ghana, Nigeria, etc), in the elderly and in the vegetarian populations. With veganism growing and becoming more popular especially in Western countries, the risks of Vitamin B12 deficiency may increase with it.
A study that involved 7963 individuals was carried out to access vitamin b12 deficiency in different genders. It concluded that, among the healthy population, men are more susceptible to vitamin b12 deficiency than women.
What vitamin b12 does for the body
1. Benefits of Vitamin B12 – Cardiovascular Diseases
Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are diseases or illnesses that affect the heart and blood vessels. Examples of these are heart attacks and strokes that are mainly a result of a blockage in the blood vessels preventing the flow of blood to the heart or brain. CVDs are the number one cause of death globally with more people dying from it than any other disease. The blood contains an amino acid known as homocysteine which we usually get from eating meat.
Homocysteine has been linked to CVDs; a high level of homocysteine is a risk factor for heart disease. There has been some research into the relationship between CVDs, homocysteine and the benefits of vitamin b12. However, the majority of the research relates to the effects of folate supplementation with or without the addition of vitamins B12 and B6. The majority of these researches have reported that supplementation with Vitamin B12 of doses ranging from 0.02-1mg/d results in about 7% reduction in total homocysteine concentration.
In another research study of 2155 patients, candidates or patients with higher Vitamin B12 concentrations taking high dose vitamins had the best results compared with patients with lower Vitamin B12 who were taking lower doses for stroke, death, and coronary events. His may suggest the positive impact Vitamin B12 has on CVD’s
2. Benefits of Vitamin B12 – Supports the synthesis of red blood cells
Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen in the body. Folate is needed for the synthesis of these red blood cells. One benefit of Vitamin B12 is that it is needed in a reaction that allows folate to be used by the body to make the red blood cells. So, without Vitamin B12, folate cannot take part in the synthesis of the red blood cells.
3. Benefits of Vitamin B12 – Energy production
One of the other benefits of vitamin B12 is that it contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism and also contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue. This is so because vitamin b12 is involved in the conversion of carbohydrates and fats into ATP – the energy currency of the body. Without vitamin b12, the proteins, carbohydrates, and fats cannot be used well by the body to produce energy.
4. Other benefits of Vitamin B12
- Vitamin B12 contributes to the normal functioning of the nervous system.
- Vitamin B12 contributes to normal homocysteine metabolism.
- Vitamin B12 contributes to normal psychological function.
- Vitamin B12 contributes to the normal function of the immune system.
- Vitamin B12 has a role in the process of cell division
Who uses Vitamin B12
The need for vitamin b12 should be assessed on an individual basis, however, in a nutshell, the following groups of people may benefit from taking Vitamin b12 supplements
- If you are over 60
- If you regularly consume alcohol
- If you are a vegetarian or a vegan
- If you consume a lot of fast foods
- If you don’t consume fruits and vegetables regularly
- If you consume a lot of refined foods and sugary foods
Vitamin b12 foods
Vitamin B12 is known to occur only in foods of animal origin. Examples of such foods are beef, lamb, chicken, liver, eggs and dairy foods. Among these examples, liver is known to have the highest concentration of b12; 26-58mgc/100g.
Vitamin B12 does not occur naturally in plant sources. Analogues of Vitamin B12 can be found in some plants however these are inactive in humans.
Vitamin B12 is easily lost through leaching into water while cooking and can be destroyed by microwave cooking. Cooking in the oven or soups and stews preserves the most Vitamin B12.
The Bottom Line
Like other vitamins, Vitamin B12 is required by the body for it to function fully. Vitamin B12 deficiency is more common than we expect and it can primarily be sourced from foods of animal origin to prevent deficiency.
Blake, S., 2011. Vitamins & Minerals Demystified. New York: McGraw Hill Professional.
Hobbs, C. and Haas, E., 2011. Vitamins For Dummies. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.
Kroner, Z., 2011. Vitamins And Minerals. Santa Barbara: Greenwood.