Vitamin B12

IMAGE Vitamin B12, also called cobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin. Water-soluble vitamins are stored in the body in limited amounts and are excreted through the urine. Therefore, it is a good idea to have them in your daily diet. Vitamin B12, the most complex of the vitamins, contains the metal cobalt in its structure.


Vitamin B12’s functions include the following:
  • Assisting in the production of neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that regulate sleep, pain, and mood
  • Enabling proper DNA replication
  • Helping catalyze the reaction that produces succinyl-CoA, a chemical required for the synthesis of hemoglobin
  • Making red blood cells and preventing anemia

Recommended Intake:

Age Group (in years) Recommended Dietary Allowance
Females Males
1-3 0.9 0.9
4-8 1.2 1.2
9-13 1.8 1.8
14-18 2.4 2.4
19+ 2.4 2.4
Pregnancy: 14+ 2.6 n/a
Lactation: 14+ 2.8 n/a

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Most diets provide adequate B12; deficiency is often a result of absorption problems. In the stomach's acidic environment and through the action of the enzyme pepsin, vitamin B12 is released from food. People who do not have enough stomach acid (such as those taking strong acid-neutralizing medications) may not be able to separate B12 from food. People with this problem, however, absorb B12 supplements without difficulty. Two proteins are also important for the vitamin's absorption and transport: intrinsic factor (IF) and R proteins. A B12 deficiency can result if there are any problems with pepsin, IF, or R proteins. Reduced secretion may occur in mid- to late-life. Severely reduced levels of IF lead to a condition called pernicious anemia. People with pernicious anemia have trouble absorbing B12 supplements and may need either very high doses or injections. Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include the following:
  • Fatigue
  • Numbness and tingling of the arms or legs
  • Difficulty walking
  • Sore tongue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Constipation
  • Memory loss
  • Disorientation
  • Moodiness

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