What do we need vitamin B12 for? Vitamin B12 is essential to your body. It is involved in multiple important functions, such as the production of red blood cells and the maintenance of the nervous system. The effects of low vitamin B12 on the body can result in a wide range of problems that impact daily life. The British Nutrition Foundation states that, like most vitamins, B12 cannot be made by the body so it is important to consume foods or supplements that contain it. Those at high risk of deficiency or anaemia, such as those following a strict vegan diet or pregnant women, need to take extra caution in ensuring that their diet contains enough B12.
WHAT DO WE NEED VITAMIN B12 FOR?
B12 is a crucial vitamin for the body. It has a significant impact on neurological health and assists in the formation of DNA. Vitamin B12 also supports the production of DNA, as well as the function and development of the nervous system. Therefore, normal levels of vitamin B12 will ensure effective nerve-impulse transmission which is vital for a healthy body and mind.
The NHS advises that adults should consume 1.5 micrograms of vitamin B12 daily to ensure a normal level of functioning. As our bodies don’t produce vitamin B12, it needs to be obtained from eating animal foods and supplements. However, vitamin B12 is not naturally found in plant foods. B12 needs to be consumed on a regular basis as our bodies are unable to store the vitamin for a long period of time.
WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF LOW VITAMIN B12?
A vitamin B12 deficiency can result in megaloblastic anaemia. This is a condition where the bone marrow produces large, structurally abnormal, red blood cells. As a result of this, the cells become unable to enter the bloodstream and deliver oxygen.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can also result in other complications, such as:
- Weakness or tiredness
- Pale skin
- Constipation, diarrhoea or loss of appetite
- Nerve problems or muscle weakness
- Depression, confusion or poor memory
- Vision loss
Some people are more likely to develop vitamin B12 deficiency than others. For instance, vitamin B12 is harder to absorb in those who have had part of their stomach removed or are taking acid-reducing medications. Furthermore, people with immune system disorders or conditions that affect their small intestine may also have difficulty with vitamin B12 levels. Vitamin B12 deficiencies can also appear in those who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. A simple blood test can determine if your vitamin B12 level is low.
HOW DO WE GET VITAMIN B12?
Vitamin B12 is present in animal products such as fish, meat, poultry, eggs and milk. Fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals and nutritional yeast are also good sources of vitamin B12. A balanced diet should contain enough vitamin B12, however, supplements may provide an additional boost if your diet or health conditions are causing a deficiency. However, supplements are only necessary if a specific deficiency is identified as large doses of vitamin B12 can have side effects.
What do we need vitamin B12 for? The bottom line is that B12 is essential for the proper function of the nervous system and DNA synthesis. As the effects of low B12 on the body, such as deficiency and anaemia, are common, it is important to speak to your doctor if any of the listed symptoms arise. However, these complications are easy to prevent by ensuring that you consume enough vitamin B12 on a regular basis. This can be easily achieved through the use of supplements or a balanced diet.