We talk a lot about Macronutrients and sometimes the very important vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) end up taking a back seat . I am going to post a series of blogs on some of the most important vitamins and minerals that we should be ensuring we have in our diet. Lacking in certain vitamins can have a huge effect on your health and well-being.
One very important little vitamin is Vitamin B12
So what does it do?
Your body needs vitamin B12 in order to create red blood cells and maintain healthy nerve cells. It is also needed to absorb folic acid and it helps to release energy. It also helps in the production of D.N.A and R.N.A , the bodies’ genetic material.
Vitamin B12 also works closely with vitamin B9, also called folate or folic acid, to help make red blood cells and to help iron work better in the body . Folate and B12 work together to produce S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), a compound involved in immune function and mood.
So as you can see this little vitamin is pretty important to our overall health.
B12 is absorbed through your intestines from a variety of foods, but mainly meat, fish and dairy products. It can be stored in the body in small amounts, and around 80% of this is stored in the liver.
Vitamin B12 cannot be absorbed on its own. It has to combine with another substance called ‘intrinsic factor’, which is produced by your stomach lining.
Adults need approx 0.0015mg a day of vitamin B12.
Some good sources:
- Meat ( particularly liver)
- Milk and dairy products
- Fish and shellfish (especially oily like salmon)
- Fortified cereals , soy milk and other foods ( vegan sources )
Vitamin B12 deficiency usually develops for one of the following reasons:
- Your stomach cannot produce enough intrinsic factor.
- Your intestine cannot absorb enough vitamin B12.
- You do not eat enough food containing vitamin B12 (this may happen to people on fad diets or people following a vegan diet without ensuring supplementing their diet with fortified foods)
Vitamin B12 is needed by all cells of the body in order to allow them to multiply. A shortage of vitamin B12 mainly affects red blood cells, because millions need be made every minute. A lack of red blood cells can lead to anaemia.
The common symptoms of anaemia:
- Shortness of breath
There is also a type of B12 deficiency anaemia caused by lack of intrinsic factor. This is called pernicious anaemia. A shortage of intrinsic factor means that B12 cannot be absorbed properly. Pernicious anaemia has the same symptoms as anaemia, including tiredness, shortness of breath and fatigue.
Other symptoms of anaemia can include:
- soreness of the tongue,
- loss of weight,
- pale skin, often with a lemon tint,
- intermittent diarrhoea,
- menstrual problems
- Poor resistance to infections.
If the deficiency goes on too long, the nervous system is liable to be affected which can cause:
- tingling of the fingers and toes,
- muscle weakness,
- tenderness in the calves
If you think you are suffering from B12 deficiency please go to your doctor.
Your doctor will normally carry out a physical examination to look for signs of vitamin B12 deficiency, such as a rapid pulse and pale skin. A blood test may be taken to check the number and appearance of red blood cells.