Why is Vitamin B12 so Important for our Health?

3 Aug 2022

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle inevitably includes healthy eating. Although this looks different for everybody because of their individual needs, living conditions, or accompanying diseases. The intake of vitamin B12 happens to be mandatory for each person, due to its key role in the human body.

Vitamin B12 helps the development of red blood cells, nerve cells, brain functions, and even DNA formation. This vitamin, however, cannot be produced from any system in the body. Therefore, it must be obtained through the food we eat and more specifically from animal products such as meat, milk, eggs, and cheese. However, it is possible to develop a vitamin B12 deficiency even if you consume the listed foods. Why vitamin B12 deficiency is dangerous for your health and how to prevent it, read below.

What role does vitamin B12 play in the body?

Healthy red blood cells are small and round, but if you happen to have vitamin B12 deficiency their shape enlarges and becomes oval. Because of this change, the movement of red blood cells from the bone marrow to the blood vessels becomes much more difficult. The imbalance of red blood cells in the bloodstream is called megaloblastic anemia. This means that the oxygenation of the organs in the body works at a much slower rate because there is not enough oxygen in the blood.

If an imbalance of red blood cells develops in people with anemia, they usually experience symptoms such as chronic fatigue and exhaustion. Another important function of vitamin B12 is to protect the brain from atrophy (loss of neurons), which may lead to memory loss and a condition known as dementia.

Sufficient intake of vitamin B12 is especially important during pregnancy because in the first trimester the brain and nervous system of the embryo require significant amounts of B12 for its proper development. Insufficient levels of the vitamin during this period can lead to fetal defects, premature birth, and even abortion.

Development factors of vitamin B12 deficiency

  • A diet without any animal products - meat, milk, cheese, and eggs are foods that are naturally rich in vitamin B12. People who have a vegetarian or vegan diet should take the vitamin as a supplement because otherwise they risk developing serious health problems.
  • Absence of the glycoprotein “intrinsic factor” - there are some types of anemia that are autoimmune diseases that do not allow the proper absorption of vitamin B12 by the intestinal flora, as they destroy the cells that are responsible for this process.
  • Stomach acid problems - a common vitamin B12 deficiency occurs in elderly people who take medicines to suppress the overproduction of stomach acid. This type of medication prevents the optimal functioning of the stomach enzymes responsible for separating vitamin B12 from the proteins that it is attached to.

Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency

The side effects of B12 deficiency on the body are numerous and, unfortunately, are often confused with other health problems. This delays the diagnosis of vitamin B12 deficiency, which, in turn, can lead to serious consequences for the patient’s health. For this reason, it is of great importance to recognize the signs of this deficiency in time. They can be:

  • frequent numbness of the limbs
  • irritability
  • trembling legs
  • tiredness and fatigue
  • depressive feelings
  • memory problems
  • convulsions

Another important function of vitamin B12 is that it helps the body with iron absorption. When B12 levels are below normal, this also affects iron levels. Iron, in turn, is extremely important for the reproduction of hair, nail, and skin cells. Based on these facts, other signs of vitamin B12 deficiency can be:

  • hyperpigmentation of the skin
  • vitiligo (absence of pigment cells in places on the skin
  • nail color changes
  • hair strength defeats
  • sore and dry corners of the mouth

How do we make sure we get enough vitamin B12?

To ensure that the body has sufficient levels of this key vitamin, you must have a balanced diet. If your diet does not include animal products, you need to consult a health professional who will suggest the right nutritional supplement for your body. Another option for B12 level screening is to do lab tests. In most cases, both the levels of vitamin B12 and vitamin B9 (folic acid) are checked, since the lack of either of these elements can be the reason for the development of megaloblastic anemia.

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