Benefits of Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps keep the body's nerve and blood cells healthy. It helps prevent a type of anemia called megaloblastic anemia that makes people tired and weak. Vitamin B12 helps make DNA, the genetic material in all cells.



The body absorbs Vitamin B12 from food in 2 steps:
First, hydrochloric acid in the stomach separates vitamin B12 from the protein to which vitamin B12 is attached in food. After this, vitamin B12 combines with a protein made by the stomach called intrinsic factor and is absorbed by the body. Some people have pernicious anemia, a condition where they cannot make intrinsic factor. As a result, they have trouble absorbing vitamin B12 from all foods and dietary supplements.


Vitamin B12 is found naturally in a wide variety of animal foods and is added to some fortified foods.
Plant foods have no vitamin B12 unless they are fortified.
You can get recommended amounts of Vitamin B12 by eating a variety of foods including the following:


  • Fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and other dairy products, which also contain vitamin B12.

  • Beef liver and clams, which are the best sources of vitamin B12.

  • Certain breakfast cereals, nutritional yeasts and other food products that are fortified with vitamin B12. To find out if vitamin B12 has been added to a food product, check the product labels.

  • Most people get enough vitamin B12 from the foods they eat. But some people have trouble absorbing vitamin B12 from food. As a result, vitamin B12 deficiency affects between 1.5% and 15% of the public.


    Certain groups may not get enough Vitamin B12 or have trouble absorbing it:


  • Some people who eat little or no animal foods such as vegetarians and vegans. Only animal foods have vitamin B12 naturally. When pregnant women and women who breastfeed their babies are strict vegetarians or vegans, their babies might also not get enough vitamin B12.

  • Many older adults, who do not have enough hydrochloric acid in their stomach to absorb the vitamin B12 naturally present in food. People over 50 should get most of their vitamin B12 from fortified foods or dietary supplements because, in most cases, their bodies can absorb vitamin B12 from these sources.People with pernicious anemia whose bodies do not make the intrinsic factor needed to absorb vitamin B12. Doctors usually treat pernicious anemia with vitamin B12 shots, although very high oral doses of vitamin B12 might also be effective.

  • People who have had gastrointestinal surgery, such as weight loss surgery, or who have digestive disorders, such as celiac disease or Crohn's disease. These conditions can decrease the amount of vitamin B12 that the body can absorb.

  • Vitamin B12 Deficiency causes constipation, weakness, tiredness ,weight loss, loss of appetite, and megaloblastic anemia. Numbness and tingling in the hands and feet due to  nerve problem, can also occur. Other symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include problems with balance,confusion, depression, dementia, poor memory, and soreness of the mouth or tongue. Vitamin B12 deficiency can damage the nervous system even in people who don't have anemia, so it is important to treat a deficiency as soon as possible.


    In infants, signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency include failure to thrive, problems with movement, delays in reaching the typical developmental milestones, and megaloblastic anemia.


    Large amounts of folic acid can hide a vitamin B12 deficiency by correcting megaloblastic anemia, a hallmark of vitamin B12 deficiency.
    But folic acid does not correct the progressive damage to the nervous system that vitamin B12 deficiency also causes. For this reason, healthy adults should not get more than 1,000 mcg of folic acid a day.


    Vitamin B12 can interact or interfere with medicines that you take, and in some cases, medicines can lower vitamin B12 levels in the body.
    Vitamin B12 has not been shown to cause any harm.



    Source:
    www.foodconsumer.org
    25 April 2011

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