What is Vitamin B12? What are the symptoms of B12 deficiency?
Vitamin B12, also called cobalamin, has a bright red color and crystal structure due to the cobalt (Co) element it contains.
Vitamin B12, also called cobalamin, has a bright red color and crystal structure due to the cobalt (Co) element it contains. It works together with folic acid in the production of extremely important structures for the body such as DNA synthesis, red blood cell (RBC, erythrocyte) production and myelin (nerve sheath) synthesis. The stomach secretes intrinsic factor to absorb vitamin B12, which is only found in animal foods. Thanks to this secretion, the absorption of vitamin B12 from the small intestine becomes easier. Water-soluble vitamin B12, unlike other vitamins of the same type, cannot be synthesized by the body, although it can be stored in the liver, kidney and some other tissues.
In other words, vitamin B12, which is extremely important for the body, can only be obtained naturally through food. In case of vitamin B12 deficiency, which occurs due to unbalanced and unhealthy nutrition, the functions of nerve cells are impaired. This leads to neurological symptoms such as loss of sensation, pain, burning sensation and tingling. B12 deficiency, which is also characterized by slowing down of cognitive functions, is more common among older people. B12 deficiency, which is one of the main causes of depression in this age group, can lead to many other symptoms. Before moving on to the symptoms of B12 deficiency, it is necessary to understand what vitamin B12 is.
What is Vitamin B12?
Cobalamin, or commonly known as vitamin B12, is a type of water-soluble vitamin that cannot be produced by the body but is needed by the body. Thanks to its water solubility, it can easily travel through the bloodstream. Vitamin B12, which can only be obtained naturally through animal foods, plays an active role in the healthy functioning of the nervous system as well as the production of red blood cells and DNA. Vitamin B12 stands out as the only type of vitamin that contains the cobalt element, unlike other B group vitamins. Vitamin B12 facilitates the absorption of B9, or in other words folic acid, which is another important vitamin for the body, and ensures that energy is synthesized and released. Red blood cells, which continue to be produced every second, cannot multiply healthily without vitamin B12 and their production decreases. Depending on this, different health problems such as anemia may occur. Although vitamin B12 cannot be synthesized by the body, it can be stored in the liver and kidneys for up to four years. Excess vitamin B12 taken after storage is excreted from the body through urine.
What Does Vitamin B12 Do and What Are Its Benefits?
Vitamin B12 plays an important role, along with folic acid, in the production of erythrocytes, known as red blood cells, by the bone marrow. In other words, it delays aging by ensuring the continuation of cell production and prevents anemia. It converts carbohydrates into glucose, reduces the amount of fat, provides protein synthesis and supports energy production. It is thought to be effective in balancing blood pressure, preventing osteoporosis (bone loss), reducing the risk of macular degeneration and lowering cholesterol. Vitamin B12 is also effective in strengthening the immune system.
It prevents nerve damage and strengthens the central nervous system by playing a role in the production of myelin, which is extremely important for the nervous system. Therefore, it is also effective in the healthy functioning of the nervous system. It is extremely effective on cognitive functions and especially memory. It facilitates learning, prevents forgetfulness, and can delay the occurrence of Alzheimer’s and dementia diseases. It is effective in preventing depression. It is also known that vitamin B12 plays a positive role in fertility. The benefits of vitamin B12 include DNA synthesis, which is the building block of cells. It can prevent the formation of serious health problems such as breast, prostate, colon and lung cancer, as well as cardiovascular diseases.
Which Foods Contain Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12, which cannot be synthesized by the body, can only be obtained naturally through foods. Foods containing B12 can be listed as follows:
Red Meat: Offal such as liver (104 mcg*/100 g), spleen and kidney (63 mcg/100 g), as well as other types of red meat, are the richest foods in terms of vitamin B12.
Fish: Trout (5 mcg/100 g), sea bass (1 mcg/100 g) and salmon (14 mcg/100 g) fish contain vitamin B12.
Egg: 100 grams of chicken egg contains 2 mcg of vitamin B12.
Cheese: Some types of cheese also contain vitamin B12, up to 1.8 mcg/100 g.
Apart from all these, vitamin B12 is found in animal foods such as chicken, milk and yoghurt. Foods containing B12 include fermented soy products. Cooking these products for a long time or too much may lead to a decrease in vitamin B12.
What are the symptoms of B12 deficiency?
Vitamin B12 deficiency is common in people who eat low in B12 and especially in people who follow a vegan diet. Vitamin B12, unlike other types of water-soluble vitamins, can be stored in the liver, kidney and some other tissues. Therefore, after a balanced diet is disrupted, a person may not experience vitamin B12 deficiency for up to four years. In other words, symptoms due to vitamin B12 deficiency may not appear for 5 to 6 years. The most common symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency is pernicious anemia, but primarily nerve tissue and brain effects may also occur. Common symptoms of B12 deficiency can be listed as follows:
Tingling, numbness and burning sensation in hands, arms, feet and legs
Tightness in the legs
Weakening of mental functions
Physical and mental fatigue
Swelling, redness and burning sensation in the tongue
Pain and tenderness
yellowing of the skin
slowing down of metabolism
What Causes B12 Deficiency?
If there is not enough vitamin B12 in the body, red blood cell production is impaired and the body cannot produce erythrocytes. As a result, pernicious anemia (less than normal amount of red blood cells in the person’s blood) may occur. Red blood cells produced in the bone marrow cannot divide normally and become larger than normal. This prevents blood cells from passing from the bone marrow into the blood. This causes the person to feel weak and tired. In severe cases, memory loss and nerve damage may occur. The brain, heart and other organs may be damaged. Anemia caused by B12 deficiency is also a significant risk for pregnancy. Miscarriage, premature birth and stillbirth may occur. In addition, newborns may experience frequent illnesses, lack of attention, and a decrease in perception and learning functions.
Due to B12 deficiency, the functions of nerve cells are also impaired. In this case, the person complains of numbness, tingling and pain. Mental functions may deteriorate, resulting in learning difficulties, lack of concentration and forgetfulness. It may be the cause and/or consequence of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Vitamin B12 deficiency is among the main causes of depression. Vitamin B12 deficiency is common in people aged 65 and over. This condition, which causes neurological and mental problems, can be easily treated if diagnosed early.
How Much Vitamin B12 Should I Have?
Vitamin B12 level above 800 pg/ml is considered as B12 excess. However, filling vitamin B12 stores completely does not cause any health problems. In other words, vitamin B12 taken above the body’s capacity can be eliminated from the body through urine. The daily dose of vitamin B12 in micrograms (mcg) according to age groups is as follows:
1-3 Years: 0.7 mcg.
4-6 Years: 1 mcg.
7-10 Years: 1.4 mcg.
Ages 11 and over: 2 mcg.
Pregnant women: 2.2 mcg.
Breastfeeding mothers: 2.1 mcg.
B12 has an extremely wide range of benefits. In addition to homocysteine and energy metabolism, it has many benefits in regulating immune functions and the healthy functioning of the nervous system. If the vitamin B12 level, which can be easily measured by laboratory testing, is lower than the reference value, the physician recommends adjusting the diet and may prescribe vitamin B12.