I’m going to do a little mini series of posts featuring a different vitamin for a few weeks. We all know vitamins are essential for good health (and for life!) but do you really know what each one does for us, where to get it and how much you need?
The B Vitamins are talked about alot, probably because they play such an important role in our bodies and are involved in so many physiological processes. There are eight B group vitamins, including B12 (or Cyanocobalamin) which we’ll look at in this post.
Vitamin B12 is only obtained from foods derived from animals, therefore strict vegetarians and vegans can become deficient if they’re not careful. B12 can however be stored in the liver, so it may be some time before symptoms of deficiency occur. B12 is essential for normal blood function and neurological function. More specifically, it is crucial for the synthesis of fatty acids in myelin (the sheet that covers nerve fibres) and it also buddies up with folate in the synthesis of DNA. It has a role in the breakdown of amino acids for energy production and in the formation of red blood cells. Some supplement products may the claim that B12 is responsible for energy production, and this isn’t strictly true. It plays a ROLE in producing energy from the breakdown of fats and proteins, but it works as part of a complex reaction along with many many other coenzymes to make this happen. Don’t be sold on the fact that B12 supplementation may directly boost your energy to Astroboy proprtions.
Anywho, so it seems this little guy is really bloody important! B12 requires IF (Intrinsic Factor) to be metabolised, and it binds with IF in the stomach before travelling down to the small intestine for absorption. There is a particular nasty disease called Pernicious Anemia which essentially results from a deficiency in B12. This severe disease is caused by insufficient production of intrinsic factor, and without intrinsic factor, B12 can’t be absorbed into the body.
So where do we get it? Most of us get our B12 from red meats, milk and dairy products. Some algae has B12 also, but people at risk of B12 deficiency are often advised to have supplementary B12. So there you have it, a snappy snap snapshot of B12. Next post we’ll look at his mate Folate (B9).