Vitamin B12 : Different from Other B Vitamins
Like its other vitamin B siblings, B12 or cobalamin plays a role in the body's energy metabolism and other biological processes. But it is also a unique B vitamin for multiple reasons.
Unlike other B vitamins that are not stored properly in the body, many years' worth of B12 can be stored in your body. Besides microorganisms, no animal or plant can make B12.
Your body cannot absorb this vitamin as well as the rest. For this reason, it has the lowest daily requirement among all other B vitamins.
Vitamin B12 has a complex chemical structure and it is the only vitamin to contain a metal element : cobalt.
Why does your body need vitamin B12?
Along with vitamin B6 and B9, B12 lowers elevated levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that increases risk of cardiovascular diseases if present in large amounts. Vitamin B12 is necessary for the production of red blood cells, which transport oxygen throughout our bloodstream. A deficiency of this vitamin can actually trigger a rare form of anemia called B12 deficiency anemia, which causes weakness and fatigue, and also affects cognitive functioning.
Vitamin B12 has a role to play in DNA production. A lack of adequate B12 prevents blood cells from reproducing their DNA effectively, and leads to the formation of abnormally large cells (macrocytosis).
Very low levels of B12 in the body are associated with nerve damage. This causes a breakdown in the insulation sheath around nerve fibers, making it difficult for signals to reach the peripheral areas of the body, such as the feet and hands.
B12 supports aerobic energy metabolism, which is necessary for the body to perform day-to-day activities and long-term exercises.
The B vitamin has also been seen to improve sperm count and sperm's swimming ability, though more research is required in this area. Studies are also being conducted to probe the effectiveness of B12 in lowering the risk of breast cancer.
What are the important sources of vitamin B12?
Though B12 is not produced in the cells of land and aquatic animals, they save this vitamin produced by bacteria and store it in their cells. That's why you can derive B12 from such food sources as fish, beef, shellfish, pork and organ meats like kidney and liver. Crimini mushrooms also nourish your body with B12, though to a much lesser extent than animal food sources.
If you're a vegetarian, you can get your fix of vitamin B12 through B complex vitamins and multivitamins. Sold under the names of cobalamin and cyanocobalamin, this vitamin is available in the form of soft gels, lozenges, capsules and tablets.
The body has a very low requirement for vitamin B12
B12 is important for cardiovascular, sperm and nerve health. It supports DNA production and aerobic energy metabolism.
Mainly animal source foods are rich in B12. Non-vegetarians can replenish with multivitamins and B complex vitamins.