Benefits of Vitamin B12 You Should Know About

12/08/2021 | 5 min. read

Healthy Directions Staff Editor

Healthy Directions Staff Editor

The human body requires a myriad of different vitamins and nutrients to function at its best. Every vitamin or nutrient has a unique role in keeping you healthy.

While it can be hard to keep up with all the different nutrients the body needs, it is very important to incorporate them into your diet.

Vitamin B12 is very important and should be a part of your daily diet or supplement regimen. It has several roles in the human body and helps with many of its functions.

What Is Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12, also referred to as cobalamin, is one of the key nutrients we need, and vegans and vegetarians may struggle to get enough of it. It has specific properties that impact the way the body uses it.

  • It is a water-soluble vitamin, which means it dissolves in water. Water-soluble vitamins are carried to cells in the bloodstream. However, they are not stored by the body. Any excess is excreted with urine.
  • It occurs naturally in food, but the human body does not make it. The only way for the body to get ample vitamin B12 levels is through diet or vitamin B12 supplements.
  • In its natural form, it is bound to proteins and that must be broken down before absorption.

The vitamin is released from these proteins by digestive enzymes in saliva and the stomach.

There are eight different types of B vitamins, all of which have similar properties. Vitamin B12 is often thought to be a combination of all the B vitamins.

The combination of B vitamins is called vitamin B complex. Vitamin B12 is its own vitamin with distinct applications in the body.

Why Does the Body Need Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 has several responsibilities in the human body. It plays an essential role in the following bodily functions:

Red Blood Cell Formation

Vitamin B12 is an integral part of the process through which red blood cells are made. It helps absorb folic acid, which alongside vitamin B12, is essential for healthy red blood cell synthesis. Red blood cells transport oxygen and nutrients to all of our body cells.

Cell Metabolism 

Energy in our bodies needs to be metabolized so it can be used. Vitamin B12 helps the body absorb folic acid, which enables the release of energy into our cells. Without a sufficient amount of vitamin B12, stored or consumed energy will not be as efficiently utilized.

Nerve Function

Vitamin B12 is used by our bodies to make myelin, which is a protective sheath that covers nerves and nerve cells throughout the body. Without myelin, signals sent through nerves cannot quickly or efficiently be transmitted to parts of the body.

DNA Production

DNA contains instructions for all of our cells and body functions. Vitamin B12 is one of the components necessary for the production of DNA, and therefore for body growth and repair.

Because of its many roles in making sure our bodies are functional, Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to different health issues. Some of these include:

Pernicious Anemia

Anemia can be caused by a decrease in red blood cell production in the body. Because vitamin B12 is part of red blood cell formation, a deficiency in the vitamin may cause anemia and related health issues.

Fatigue, Weight Loss, and Muscle Weakness

If the body does not have enough red blood cells, oxygen and nutrients are not as efficiently distributed throughout the body which can cause fatigue and weakness.

This can also occur because, without vitamin B12, energy is not properly metabolized, which can leave individuals feeling tired and weak.

Numbness

Vitamin B12 is used to make and keep the myelin covering our nerves strong. The numbness caused by nerve damage can be a result of vitamin B12 deficiency.

Numbness can also occur if there is not enough circulation in the blood. This can occur due to a decrease in red blood cells caused by a lack of vitamin B12.

Benefits of Vitamin B12

Beyond its essential roles in the body, vitamin B12 can have many benefits with a healthy diet and routine.

Strong Bone

Several studies have linked vitamin B12 deficiency with lower bone mineral density (BMD), especially in women. This may be because vitamin B12 is involved in DNA production, which impacts bone tissue formulation.

While the links between vitamin B12 and BMD are unclear, the vitamin may help keep bones strong and healthy.

Cognitive Support

Beyond its essential role in nerve function, evidence shows that vitamin B12 helps protect and strengthen brain cells, reducing cognitive decline and improving memory.

Increased Energy

Because it is involved in cell metabolism and red blood cell formation, vitamin B12 can help boost energy levels if taken regularly.

Uplifted Mood

While there are no clear links between vitamin B12 and mood, studies have shown that those deficient in vitamin B12 are more likely to struggle with low mood disorders. This might be because vitamin B12 has an impact on how nerves function.

Vitamin B12 intake can also benefit your hair, skin, and nails, as well as your vision and heart.

Getting Enough Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 has several essential roles in the body. Because it is water-soluble and therefore not stored in the body, it must be replenished daily through diet or supplements.

For the average adult, the recommended dietary allowance of vitamin B12 is 2.4 micrograms or mcg.

Here is a list of vitamin B12 rich foods to incorporate into your diet:

  • Organ meats, such as chicken, poultry, or beef liver and kidneys, contain almost 3,000 percent the daily value of vitamin B12 per three-ounce serving.
  • Seafood, namely tuna, salmon, sardines, and clams, is very high in vitamin B12 and healthy fat.
  • Dairy products, including eggs and yogurt, are great sources of vitamin B12. This is also true for non-dairy milk alternatives. One glass of soy milk, for example, can provide 80 percent of your daily needs.
  • Lean beef and chicken can provide two micrograms of vitamin B12 a serving. For best results, avoid frying or coating in unhealthy oils.
  • Fortified breakfast cereals, nutritional yeasts, and grains have vitamin B12 added to them. When buying cereals and grains, check how much vitamin B12 they provide and if they are high in sugar or unhealthy fats.

While you should get enough vitamin B12 through a healthy diet, those who do not get enough of the vitamin should speak to their doctor about taking a supplement or getting vitamin b12 injections.

This is especially true for seniors or those who are deficient in the vitamin.

Sources:

Vitamin B12 - Health Professional Fact Sheet | National Institutes of Health

B Vitamins | The Nutrition Source | Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health

Vitamin B-12 | Mayo Clinic

Vitamin B12 deficiency can be sneaky, harmful | Harvard Health Publishing

Low plasma vitamin B12 is associated with lower BMD | National Library of Medicine

Omega-3 Fatty Acid Status Enhances the Prevention of Cognitive Decline by B Vitamins in Mild Cognitive Impairment | National Library of Medicine

Healthy Directions Staff Editor