Vitamin B12 is probably the best-known vitamin of the “Bs” family. Moreover, it may be the best known of vitamins, at this point. Its involvement in numerous biological processes supports it.
But let’s understand a little better why, what effects it has on our body and why it is vital not to forget about its existence, especially if we rely on a vegan or vegetarian diet not advocate.
What is vitamin B12?
First things first: Vitamin B12, or cobalamin is a water-soluble vitamin (which dissolves in water) essential for the normal functioning of the brain, nervous system, and for the formation of blood and various proteins, as well as the energy metabolism This vitamin is produced naturally thanks to bacterial symbiosis, although we can acquire it in food.
As we said, B12 is one of the vitamins in the “Bs” group, such as vitamin B1, thiamine, B2, riboflavin, B3, niacin, B5, pantothenic acid, B6, pyridoxine, B7, biotin, also known as vitamin H, or B9, folic acid. Although it dissolves in water, vitamin B12 accumulates in the liver, whose fatty tissue is especially important. From there it is sent to act as a coenzyme in several very important processes of the body. A deficiency in this vitamin can be dangerous. In severe cases, even fatal.
Between 2.4 and 2.8 micrograms of vitamin B12 are recommended daily. These can be acquired from different foods, either by the existence of precursors that will allow microorganisms to synthesize it or by taking it directly. Vitamin B12 is released from the protein to which it is associated thanks to the stomach hydrochloric acid and absorbed in the intestine.
What is vitamin B12 for?
We have already mentioned it, but entering a little more in the matter, vitamin B12 is especially important in energy metabolism, in the synthesis of DNA, in the maturation of red blood cells … B12 acts as a coenzyme, that is, it helps to enzymes to perform their function. Their participation is so complex and so linked to cellular functioning that it is very difficult to define all the mechanisms of action and functions that it fulfills in the body.
For example, it is vital for cell division, for DNA synthesis and for cell production. It is also essential to maintain the good state of myelin and, therefore, the complex nervous system. As we have commented, its role in the maturation of erythrocytes is essential, being one of the points where the effects of a B12 deficiency are first noticed.
Anemia related to vitamin B12 may take time to become present due to the reserves we have in our body and our ability to synthesize this vitamin thanks to symbiont organisms with which we live. We may also delay in identifying your deficit due to the general symptoms with which it manifests.
Among them are tiredness, weakness, malaise, loss of appetite and weight. If the deficit persists, megaloblastic anemia may occur, reducing the number of red blood cells produced by the bone marrow. Neurological disorders such as numbness and tingling in the hands and feet may also occur. Other symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include problems with balance, depression, confusion, dementia, poor memory, and inflammation of the mouth or tongue.
Why is it important to supplement with a vegetarian and vegan diet?
Although we are able to synthesize vitamin B12 thanks to the action of several symbiote microorganisms, we need folic acid and other suitable precursors to ensure proper production of this vitamin. In the case of a strict vegetarian or vegan diet, we should take this vitamin by supplementation.
Can’t we find B12 in plant foods? Certain algae, such as spirulina, contain vitamin B12; but it is not the vitamin B12 that we need but it is a biologically inactive analog for humans. Moreover, the consumption of these algae can mask a deficiency of B12 in the analytics, so the safest thing will always be to supplement with external sources to ensure this important vitamin in our diet.
And how we do it? The first and most important thing is that you should consult with nutrition or medical professional. However, it is really easy to obtain a suitable supplement at the pharmacy. Vitamin B12 tablets are very economical, although we must pay attention to the type of supplement we are looking for since not all are equally efficient.
The most useful supplement, and recommended in general cases, is cyanocobalamin. Depending on whether we opt for a weekly or daily dose, concentrations vary between 2000 and 100 micrograms, usually in dragees or vials. Anyway, we insist, if you need supplementation, it is convenient to consult with a specialist.
What is vitamin B12 for?
There are numerous myths related to vitamin B12. The two best known are related to alcohol consumption and weight loss. Both are false, of course. The first says that vitamin B12 is used to combat hangover and alcohol poisoning, which is not true. Although it is not very clear where this myth comes from, everything indicates that it is linked to the cocktail of vitamin B1, vitamin B6, and 5% glucose serum used in cases of deep intoxication.
Unless the person has a B12 deficit, which can occur in specific cases of pathologies associated with the liver, for example, this particular vitamin is not supplied. The priority of healthcare professionals in these cases is to keep the patient safe, avoiding dehydration (caused by diuresis, that is, constant urine production due to alcohol) and lack of glucose, and for that Serve the blissful cocktail, without B12.
The other case is that which relates the metabolism with B12. The idea of ”activating the metabolism” by taking vitamin B12 (or other substances such as L-carnitine, water with lemon, etc.). But although we have already said that it is closely related to metabolism, it will never “speed up” the process of energy expenditure, unless we suffer from a deficiency, in which case it is not that the metabolism improves, but that it “fixes” it.
The only way to “activate the metabolism” is to exercise. The excess of vitamin B12 that we consume will be lost in the urine. In fact, it is very difficult to suffer an “overdose”, or hypervitaminosis, of vitamin B12 because of how easy it is for our body to get rid of it. The true and only real activator of metabolism that exists in our own body. Specifically, our muscles. So it’s okay to give adequate relevance to vitamin B12, but it won’t do us any good to get obsessed with it.