6 Important Facts About Vitamin B12
Everything you need to know about this energy-boosting vitamin!
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin. It is best known to boost energy and memory. Vitamin B12 deficiency is a major public health problem worldwide. If neglected, its deficiency can lead to some serious implications for our health. Here are some lesser known facts about this vital micronutrient.
- Vitamin B12 helps in the formation of red blood cells– The function of red blood cells is to transport oxygen from the air that we breathe to all the cells in your body, to be converted into energy. Vitamin B12 helps in making these blood cells. Severe deficiency of vitamin B12 can lead to megaloblastic anemia. When you’re anemic, your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells to transport oxygen to your vital organs. This explains why one feels fatigued and sluggish due to the deficiency of this vitamin.
- A healthy gut is important for vitamin B12 absorption– Your gut health determines your vitamin B12 levels in multiple ways. Your stomach lining produces a protein called ‘intrinsic factor’ that helps in absorption of vitamin B12 from the food sources. Sometimes there is an insufficiency of this intrinsic factor due to several reasons like — autoimmune disorder, gastrectomy (where some part of stomach is surgically removed), or inflammation in gut due to infections. Unhealthy eating habits, excessive alcohol, low stomach acid, frequent use of antacids also result in poor gut health which leads to poor absorption of this vitamin. So, maintaining gut health is fundamental to maintain healthy levels of vitamin B12.
- Your body can produce vitamin B12– There’s a famous myth that your body cannot synthesize vitamin B12. Several scientific studies have debunked this myth. The good bacteria present in your gut can synthesize vitamin B12. This means, having diversity of good bacteria in your intestine is essential to normalize levels of vitamin B12. Probiotics rich foods like yoghurt, milk, and fermented foods contribute friendly bacteria which help in producing vitamin B12 in intestines. A diet rich in fiber- consisting of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is important to boost growth of friendly bacteria in the gut. The gut bacteria also need a mineral called ‘cobalt’ to make this vitamin. This mineral is commonly found in foods like milk, nuts, seeds, fish, and vegetables like cabbage, spinach and broccoli. Vitamin B12 deficiency is very commonly found, even in people who are non-vegetarian. The reason could be an unhealthy gut. The signs of an unhealthy gut are acidity, bloating, indigestion, and constipation.
- Deficiency of vitamin B12 can increase risk of heart disease– Vitamin B12 is involved in breakdown of a protein called ‘homocysteine’. High homocysteine levels in blood can lead to formation of blood clots and free radical damage to the cells that line arteries. This can lead to narrowing and blockage of arteries. Homocysteine is also known to reduce contractility of heart muscle through a different mechanism. This affects the pumping capacity of the heart and increases risk of congestive heart failure. A lack of adequate vitamin B12 can increase homocysteine levels.
- Deficiency of vitamin B12 can lead to cognitive decline– Vitamin B12 plays an important role in brain functions. It helps in formation of ‘myelin sheath’ (a protective covering for nerves that carry messages from brain to the rest of your body) — so, its deficiency causes confusion, memory problems, brain fog, and the most common warning sign is numbness and tingling in hands and feet. High homocysteine levels due to deficiency of vitamin B12 are also linked with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and cognitive decline.
- Deficiency of vitamin B12 can lead to weight gain– Vitamin B12 plays a key role in fat metabolism. A scientific study proved a link between the importance of vitamin B12 and various components of metabolism syndrome. Severe B12 deficiency leads to increased fat accumulation and obesity.
We need this vitamin in small amounts, yet its deficiency can cause multiple health problems. It is important to consult your doctor if there are any signs of vitamin B12 deficiency like fatigue, dizziness, pins and needles sensation in hands and feet, hair loss, pale skin. The best way to have healthy levels of vitamin B12 is to keep your gut healthy. Natural food sources of this vitamin are milk, yoghurt, fermented foods, eggs, fish, poultry, and meat.
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