Amazing Facts About Vitamin B12

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As one of the vitamins in the B complex family, Vitamin B12 plays a functional role in the conversion of the food we eat into energy. As with most of the other B vitamins, it’s essential for healthy looking hair, liver maintenance, healthy skin, and healthy eyes. However, Vitamin B12 is set apart in its importance in neurological and hematological functions.

A contributor in myelination, this vitamin is converted into a component used in the central nervous system to create myelin sheaths. Myelin sheaths are the layers protecting the nervous pathways, facilitating smooth nervous exchange between nerve cells and the brain. Without it, we experience disturbing side effects related to cognition, movement, and blood production. [1]

Vitamin B12, along with vitamins B6 and B9 are used as treatment for hyperhomocysteinemia. This condition is characterized by an abnormal increase in homocysteine; an amino acid digestion byproduct researched as a link to many diseases such as coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular attacks, and painful eye conditions. [2] Although research is conflicting regarding its efficacy. Studies of these vitamins related to the reduction of incidence of cardiovascular disease and cancer are ongoing as well. [2]

Vitamin B12 is used in the treatment of pernicious anemia. This type of anemia is an autoimmune disease that renders the body unable to absorb Vitamin B12 from the gastrointestinal tract. The complications that this disease causes shows just how much we really need this vitamin in our system. People who suffered from pernicious anemia suffered severe pain, locomotor difficulties, tachycardia, mouth sores, nausea, heartburn, just to name a few symptoms. In severe cases, sufferers of this type of anemia had spinal cord degeneration.

Before the discovery that pernicious anemia was a vitamin B12 deficiency disorder, people who suffered from this disease had a poor prognosis, and the average survival rate was one to three years. Back then, the treatment was ingesting large amounts of liver juice until the isolation and discovery of Vitamin B12 and its contribution to the treatment of pernicious anemia in 1948. [3]

Deficiency in Vitamin B12 also showed drastic developmental delays in infants less than 6 months. Injuries to the central nervous system was noted, as well as manifestations of microcephaly, seizures, lethargy, and abnormal muscle development. [4] This discovery prompted doctors to supplement pregnant women with Vitamin B12 during prenatal stages to avoid pre and post-natal difficulties, a practice still implemented to this day in clinical settings.

Avoiding Vitamin B12 Deficiency

As with all the B vitamins, Vitamin B12 is water soluble. This means that it would be hard for us to reach the point of toxicity, since our body disposes of the excess everyday through our urine. Deficiency is also only manifested years after, as our body can produce Vitamin B12 from our bacterial gut. Deficiency of this vitamin is even less of a concern for people who allow quick broiled beef, lamb, and steamed fish in their diets.

However, people who do not eat animal and animal products may have to rely on vitamin supplements to ensure that they get their recommended daily amounts. Vitamin B12 supplements are produced by pharmaceutical companies through a process of bacterial isolation, offering vegans and vegetarians the option of replenishing their body’s supply of this vitamin from supplements and fortified food products, such as fortified soy milk and fortified meat analogues. [5]


[1] Vitamin B12. Wikipedia.

[2] Effects of Lowering Homocysteine Levels With B Vitamins on Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer, and Cause-Specific MortalityMeta-analysis of 8 Randomized Trials Involving 37,485 Individuals. JAMA Internal Medicine.

[3] Pernicious Anemia. Wikipedia.

[4] Function of vitamin B12 in the central nervous system as revealed by congenital defects. American Journal of Hematology.;jsessionid=684892D6FE8E815949A17FC9D7DDD294…/

[5] Vitamin B12 in the Vegan Diet. The Vegetarian Resource Group.

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