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Vitamin B-12 - Benefits, Risks and Diet

Vitamin B-12 Energy and More

 

What is Vitamin B12?

This important nutrient works to keep your blood cells and nerves healthy. It also plays a huge role in your energy levels. Vitamin B12 also works to help create that the DNA that makes up your cells. 

Vitamin B12 is not made by your body.  It is absorbed from the animal foods you eat.   Vegetarians and vegans require dietary supplements to ensure their levels are healthy.  

Other than supplements, animal based foods are the only source of vitamin B-12.  Between 1.5% and 15% of the public experience a deficiency. (1)

Keep in mind that some health issues make it hard for your stomach to absorb vitamin B-12.  Acid reflux and diabetes are two of the most commonly known ones. Pernicious anemia, although not as common, may stop absorption completely. 

Symptoms of Vitamin B-12 deficiencyVitamin B12 Deficiency Symptoms

The most commonly known symptom is tiredness and general lack of energy.  The effects can range from mild to severe. Some people will experience more symptoms than others.  

Supplements are a wonderful way to help maintain your levels but keep in mind continued symptoms should be discussed with your doctor.  Always do your research and find a vitamin B12 supplement that has all natural ingredients.

Some major side effects of deficiency include:

  • Balance
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Gas
  • Heart palpitations
  • High temperatures
  • Lightheadedness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mood changes like depression
  • Mouth sores
  • Nerve problems like numb or tingling hands or feet
  • Paling skin color
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vision impairment
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss

Benefits of Healthy B12 Levels

Vitamin B-12

Improved Mood

Vitamin B12 helps the brain create chemicals used to control your mood.  Problems like depression, anxiety, and confusion may improve with normal b12 levels.  Cognitive function problems, like memory loss, may lead to a poor mood. 

Researchers have studied the connection between vitamin B-12 and depression.  In one study a large number of patients with depression had low levels of vitamin b-12. (2) Another one found that a woman with long term depression had relief after returning to a healthy vitamin B12 level. (3)

Increased Energy

One of the most common symptoms of a deficiency is decreased energy.  B12 helps to convert carbohydrates into energy producing glucose. 

If you often feel tired, sluggish or fatigued adding a B12 supplement to daily routine may help. 

Healthy Heart

Vitamin B12 and heart health

Heart disease develops for many reasons.  There are a wide variety of steps to take to ensure the health of your heart.  Diet, exercise, hereditary and more.  

High levels of homocysteine in the blood can be linked to blood clots or overall arterial damage.  These can be side effects of low vitamin B-12 levels.  

Sometimes even our best efforts to be healthy may go astray.  Surprisingly, the benefits of a vegetarian diet may be undone if a B12 supplement is not used. (4) 

Vision Health

Decreasing your vision loss is a benefit of a B12 supplement.  B12 helps to maintain the health of your optic nerves. Folic acid and B12 is likely to prevent a disease called age-related macular degeneration.

Increased Memory 

The brain uses neurotransmitters (information carriers) for healthy development and function.  When the levels are low our recall or memory may be sluggish. You have an increased risk of memory loss if you do not have health B12 levels.  

Skin, Nails and Hair

These are all areas of your body that require constant cell reproduction. B12 plays a vital role in that process.  If you are not deficient it is not likely that adding a supplement will improve these areas.  

People with low levels often have discolored nail beds, thinning hair or possible loss of skin coloring (vitiligo).   

Lower Risk of Various Diseases

Older adults are often found to be deficient.  Dementia, stroke, psoriasis, cancer, autoimmune diseases, Alzheimer's and more benefit from vitamin B12.  Excessive nitric oxide levels can are part of these diseases. B12 binds with the excess and helps to remove it from your body.

Many cognitive functions, nerve damage or diseases may be improved with a b-12 supplement.  The nervous system is key to a healthy life. B-12 can be a great source of nutrients for the system.  

Foods Sources of Vitamin B-12

Vitamin B12 food sources

As we covered earlier only animal based foods provide vitamin B12.  Even the healthiest of diets can leave you low levels if you don’t incorporate these important foods.  

What are animal based foods?  You may immediately think of meat and you are correct.  However, this category also includes milk and eggs. This is why a vegan diet puts a person at a higher risk of deficiency than a vegetarian diet will.

  • Animal Liver and Kidneys (Lamb liver has the highest level of B12)
  • Beef
  • Clams
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Fortified Cereals 
  • Fortified Non-dairy milk
  • Milk and dairy products are often fortified with B12 (read your labels)
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Resources:

  1. www.ods.nih.gov
  2. www.ncbi.nlm.gov
  3. www.ncbi.nlm.gov
  4. www.ncbi.nlm.gov