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Vitamin B12 Sources, Functions and Deficiencies

Vitamin B12 is known as cobalamin as well, because of its cobalt content. Vitamin B12 aids in maintaining healthy nerve cells and red blood cells. It is an integral element in DNA formation. It functions with the binding of protein in food. During the digestion process, hydrochloric acid in the stomach discharges vitamin B12 from protein contents found in food. As soon as it is released, it binds with intrinsic factor (IF). Later intestinal tract absorbs this combination.


Vitamin B12 is a naturally derived substance. Fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk and dairy products are the wise selection of vitamin B12 sources. Another great source of vitamin B12 is fortified breakfast cereals. This is a perfect choice for vegetarians to satisfy their vitamin B12 needs. Apart from that mixed spices prepared from mollusks and clam can be considered as one of significant vitamin B12 sources. Liver, beef, Trout, Salmon, Yogurt, Haddock, Clams, Tuna, Pork, and Chicken are the great sources of vitamin B12.

The requirement for vitamin B12 in a healthy adult is 2.4μg per day.


Essentially, vitamin B12 functions in various ways. The most important among all vitamin B12 functions is identified with the assistance in the neurotransmitter production. Neurotransmitter is an important element that regulates almost every function in our body and mind. Fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism are also significant vitamin B12 functions. It helps in appropriate DNA replication process. It plays a significant role as a catalyst during hemoglobin synthesis. If you lack vitamin B12 in your daily diet, you may become anemic. It helps in red blood cells production. It helps in converting from homocysteine to methionine. This conversion is crucial in minimizing the risk of cardiac arrest.


Typically vitamin B12 deficiencies may occur due to two reasons – one is inability to absorb vitamin B12 from food substances and the second reason is an inability to consume foods rich in vitamin B12. The later situation mainly occurs in the case of strict vegetarians. They suffer from vitamin B12 deficiencies mainly due to the fact that they do not consume any foods coming from animals.

The common symptoms associated with vitamin B12 deficiencies may include constipation, memory loss, difficulty in walking or moving, megaloblastic anemia, mood disorder, numbness, sore tongue, disorientation, damage in the myelin sheath and dementia.

Pregnant women or lactating women need extra supply of vitamin B12, like any other essential nutrients. It passes to the placenta during pregnancy. Brest-fed infants receive their nutrients from their mother. Therefore a lack of nutrients may cause serious harm to their health. The women on vegan diet may lack the sufficient supply of vitamin B12. So the crisis may result within months of birth. If not taken into serious consideration, it may cause severe neurological damage in time.

Apart from that, individuals suffering from megaloblastic anemia or gastrointestinal disorder may receive benefits from vitamin B12 supplements. Few medications suggested for chronic problem may decrease the natural absorption of vitamin B12 in the body, in such cases additional supplements of vitamin B12 seem to be necessary.

As vitamin B12 supplements are essentially dependent on animal products, so we must understand that a strict vegetarian diet may lead to vitamin B12 deficiencies. In such cases, fortified cereals must be taken under consideration to fulfill the requirement of vitamin B12.

Potential Health Risk

There is no established UL so far for vitamin B12 because of its low potential for toxicity. Till date, no such reports have been submitted in claim of adverse effects resulting from the usage of vitamin B12. However, medical studies conducted by Institute of Medicine say that individuals older than 50 years should depend on fortified foods to avoid possible vitamin B12 deficiencies. It is mainly because of the impaired absorption pattern for vitamin B12 coming from animal products, mostly prevalent at older ages.


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