Vitamin B12, commonly known as "red vitamin", is essential for the proper functioning of the body. It regulates many processes, including the production of red blood cells and the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Its deficiency can be very dangerous to our health, so it is worth knowing what it manifests itself and how it can be effectively supplemented.
What is vitamin B12 needed for?
Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, is an organic chemical compound containing a cobalt ion in its molecule. Its proper concentration affects the work of the entire body, especially the circulatory and nervous systems. It takes an active part in the production of red blood cells and prevents anemia. It also affects the proper functioning of the nervous system, as it participates in the creation of nerve sheaths that protect and isolate nerve cells. It is essential for the synthesis of proteins and nucleic acids in cells. Together with vitamin B6 and folic acid, it regulates the level of homocysteine, the high level of which is indicated as one of the main causes of atherosclerosis. Additionally, it participates in the transformation of folic acid into its biologically active form.
The proper level of vitamin B12 is also important for mental health - research shows that its deficiency can affect the development of Alzheimer's disease.
Causes and symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency
Therefore, there is no doubt that the correct level of this vitamin is extremely important for our health. Unfortunately, many people are deficient in vitamin B12, especially children and the elderly. At first, the body does not show any symptoms of avitaminosis, as excess cobalamin is deposited in the liver and muscles. The problem usually shows up after a few years.
Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency negatively affect the functioning of the body. Early symptoms include: general weakness, fatigue, frequent infections, lack of appetite and digestive disorders, numbness in the limbs, irritability, memory problems, and menstrual disorders. At a later stage, a deficiency can cause:
- circulatory system malfunction, including megaloblastic anemia and pernicious anemia,
- disturbances in the nervous system, such as uncertainty of gait, numbness in the hands and feet, problems with vision,
- hyperhomocysteinemia, which is a factor in atherosclerotic and thrombotic changes,
- degenerative changes in the gastric mucosa and absorption disorders.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can also cause symptoms typical of mental illnesses. There are possible disturbances in consciousness, delusional syndromes resembling schizophrenia or depressive states.
The elderly are most prone to deficiencies, as the absorption of vitamin B12decreases with age. People suffering from diseases of the digestive system, as well as abusing alcohol, vegetarians and vegans are also at risk.
Recommended daily dose of vitamin B12
0.9 μg / d - up to 3 years of age
1.2 μg / d - up to 6 years of age
1.8 μg / d - up to 12 years of age
2.4 μg / d - from the age of 13 and later
2.6 μg / d - in pregnant women
2.8 μg / d - in lactating women
The given standards are in line with the current recommendations of the Food and Nutrition Institute.
Treatment of vitamin B12 deficiency
The easiest way to get vitamin B12 is to eat properly. We find it primarily in products of animal origin: meat and its products, offal, milk and dairy products, chicken eggs, fish and seafood. A small amount of vitamin B12 is found in mushrooms, but for people who do not eat animal products, it is insufficient. For vegans and vegetarians, the source of vitamin B12 can be artificially enriched products, most often cereals and soy products.
However, it may happen that diet alone is not enough to normalize vitamin B12 levels. Then supplementation may turn out to be effective. Before starting it, you should consult a doctor who will check whether additional vitamin B12 supplementation is necessary.