What is Vitamin B12?

Whether you are vegan, vegetarian or a meat-eater, this double noble prize-winning vitamin plays an essential role in human health. With responsibilities including, nervous system function, energy metabolism, immune system function and cell division vitamin B12 really earns its reputation as a wonder-vitamin.  

What is Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is the last of the B-vitamin family. B-vitamins are water-soluble vitamins much like Vitamin C. This describes one of its main properties which is that it is soluble in water, not fat. Vitamin B12 is also known by its chemical name cobalamin, there are a few types of cobalamin which are described by their prefix, for example, methylcobalamin has a methyl group attaches, hydroxocobalamin and cyanocobalamin etc.

Multiple scientists have contributed to the discovery of Vitamin B12 and its vital roles within the body. Beginning with Addison who’s work focused on Pernicious Anaemia. Followed by the work of Minot and Murphy who discovered the benefits of Liver and liver extract on this disease. Finally, with Castle and Hodgkins who confirmed the biochemistry and physiology of Vitamin B12. Since this time, Vitamin B12 has gained much popularity in the supplement industry especially with sportspeople and people with plant-based diets.

Food Sources of Vitamin B12

As mentioned earlier in the article, Vitamin B12 is essential, meaning that we must consume it within our diet. There are many sources of Vitamin B12 including:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Eggs

You’ll notice that there are no natural plant-based sources of Vitamin B12. However, some food manufacturers are now fortifying their plant-based foods to include Vitamin B12.

Our daily recommendation of Vitamin B12 is just 1.5mcg. That’s 0.0015mg or 0.0000015grams. It’s a miniscule amount. However, Vitamin B12 is only found in trace amounts within food. For example,  1 large egg contains approximately 0.6mcg .

Plant Based Diets and Vitamin B12

It’s impossible to gain Vitamin B12 naturally in a plant-based diet. This means that vegans and vegetarians are advised to take a daily vitamin B12 supplement to maintain their health. One literature review of plant-based vitamin B12 status found that deficiency rates ranged between 0-86.5% deficiency in the measured population. In general, the higher deficiency prevalence was in vegans rather than vegetarians. This study concluded that vegans who did not take a daily cobalamin supplement were at the highest risk of deficiency.

The Vegan society recommended the following in order to benefit from a balanced vegan diet:

  1. Eat fortified foods two or three times a day to get at least three micrograms (mcg or µg) of B12 a day
  2. OR Take one B12 supplement daily providing at least 10 micrograms
  3. OR Take a weekly B12 supplement providing at least 2000 micrograms.

Vitamin B12 deficiency & Symptoms

It’s not only vegans and vegetarians that can be deficient in Vitamin B12, but it’s also common in the general population. According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the estimated prevalence of Vitamin B12 deficiency in the UK is around 6% for people under 60 years of age and nearer to 20% in people over the age of 60 years.

Common symptoms of Cobalamin Deficiency include:

  • Lethargy
  • Breathlessness
  • Feeling Faint
  • Headaches
  • Pallor/Pale skin
  • Palpitations
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Anaemia resulting in reduced red blood cells.
  • Changes in peripheral nervous function
  • Memory Loss
  • Visual changes

Approved Health Claims for Vitamin B12

The following list describes the approved health claims for Vitamin B12

  • Vitamin B12 contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism
  • Vitamin B12 contributes to normal functioning of the nervous system
  • Vitamin B12 contributes to normal homocysteine metabolism
  • Vitamin B12 contributes to normal psychological function
  • Vitamin B12 contributes to normal red blood cell formation
  • Vitamin B12 contributes to the normal function of the immune system
  • Vitamin B12 contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue
  • Vitamin B12 has a role in the process of cell division

Health Benefits and Evidence

Let's go into some of the health benefits of Vitamin B12 further:

Immune Health

Vitamin B12 plays and important role in the immune system, namely as an immunomodulator by stimulating the number of CD8+ T-cell and natural killer cells in the adaptive branch of the immune system. This idea can be supported by a study by Tamura et al which found a decreased number of lymphocytes (white blood cells). In addition, another study found a decrease in CD8+ T-cells in patients with deficiency anaemia.

Homocysteine Metabolism

In short, evidence shows that homocysteine can increase the risk of heart disease. Homocysteine is made during the folate methionine pathway (see below). These are two interlinking pathways using Vitamin B12 in order to regenerate methionine from homocysteine. There are 3 B-vitamins responsible for maintaining healthy levels of homocysteine in the blood, one of which is Vitamin B12, alongside Vitamin B6 and B9.

Studies show that a daily Vitamin B12 supplement of 20mcg-1mg/day can lead to a 7% decrease in the production of homocysteine. One study found that patients with higher baseline vitamin B12 concentrations, taking high dose vitamins had the best outcomes and those with lower baseline vitamin B12 taking low-dose vitamins had the poorest outcomes for stroke, death, and coronary events.

Brain Health & Nervous System

As mentioned above, Vitamin B12 plays a big role in Psychological Function and the Nervous system. Research into cognitive decline disorders still has many unanswered questions, what we do know is that there is an association between deficiency and brain wellness. In the previous paragraph we discussed the folate methionine pathway, we found that vitamin B12 deficiency increases homocysteine. In the same pathway, if vitamin B12 is deficient we also see a build-up of Methylmalonic acid (MMA). Studies have demonstrated that raised MMA concentrations have been associated with cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease progression. Whereas a metanalysis concluded that high levels of homocysteine were associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease, thought to be associated with vitamin reduced levels of B12, B6 and Folate.Our Vitamin B12 tablets

If you would like to try Vitamin B12 supplementation then our Vitamin B12 provide 1000mcg/1mg of high-quality Methylcobalamin. Each pack contains 30 tablets, providing a 1-month supply of great nutrition. Each tablet is delivered to you in an easy-to-swallow6mm round ingestible tablet. Our Vitamin B12 is allergen-free, suitable for vegans and vegetarians.

References

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