Why You Need To Add Vitamin B12 To Your Diet
Vitamin B12, also known as ‘Cobalamin’, is one of eight B Vitamins that your body requires to carry out important functions such as energy production, the formation of red blood cells, DNA synthesis, regulating homocysteine levels, and maintaining proper nervous system function.
Being an essential Vitamin, our bodies cannot produce Vitamin B12 so we must attain it from our diet, with the only source of vitamin B12 in nature being found in animal products.
This blog will break down the different forms of vitamin B12, how Vitamin B12 functions in the body, symptoms of deficiency, and the best food sources to maintain healthy levels.
Different Forms of Vitamin B12
Before we dive into the functions of Vitamin B12, let’s get to know the various forms of vitamin B12.
- One of the 2 bio-active forms of vitamin B12.
- The most readily usable source of vitamin B12 for the human body.
- Naturally occurring in animal products.
- Is the mitochondrial form of vitamin B12
- Also an active form of vitamin B12.
- Our body stores most of the vitamin B12 reserves in the liver as Adenosyl B12 before converting it to Methyl B12 for use.
- An inactive form of vitamin B12 that needs to convert to either an Adenosyl B12 or Methyl B12 in the body before it can be used.
- Naturally found in animal products.
- Easily converted in the body through digestion.
- A cheap, synthetic, inactive form of vitamin B12.
- Commonly added to supplements and fortified foods.
- This form of vitamin B12 needs to undergo demanding bodily processes to convert it to a usable form such as Methyl B12.
- Absorption can be drastically reduced in individuals with gastrointestinal issues given the processes required to convert this form of vitamin B12 into an active form for the body to use.
5 Functions of Vitamin B12
Most people recognise Vitamin B12 for its role in energy production, however that’s only one part of the picture, with Vitamin B12 being a crucial vitamin used for several functions within the body. Some of the key functions of vitamin B12 include:
The powerhouses for energy production within the cell are called the mitochondria. Within the mitochondria, fatty acids, sugars and amino acids can be converted to energy in the form of ATP. Whilst it is generally accepted that the B group vitamins play an essential role in ATP (energy) production, vitamin B12 plays a particular role in the conversion of food into energy.
Nervous System Function
Our nervous system describes both our Central Nervous System (CNS) and our Peripheral Nervous System (PNS). Our CNS comprises our brain and spinal cord, whilst our PNS describes the network of neurons that branch out from our brain and spinal cord to every part of our body, including our limbs, organs, torso, and face. Our nervous system is responsible for sending signals from our brain to our body, controlling much of what we think, feel, and do. Vitamin B12 is foundational in maintaining and repairing the nervous system because of its relationship with the protective myelin sheath that nerves are enclosed in.
The formation of red blood cells
Red blood cells are the transporters of oxygen through the body and transport Carbon Dioxide to your lungs where it can be exhaled. Vitamin B12 is essential in the formation of red blood cells through its role in converting Folate into a form the body can use to produce the red blood cells. Without this conversion, our bodies cannot access the folate needed for this process.
Supporting healthy pregnancy
The importance of adequate Vitamin B12 during pregnancy cannot be overstated, given its fundamental role in growth. Vitamin B12 deficiency in pregnancy has been associated with adverse maternal and neonatal outcomes, including low birth weight, developmental anomalies, impaired brain development, and miscarriages.
DNA synthesis is a natural process undertaken in all living organisms. DNA damage naturally occurs through environmental and metabolic influences and is associated with disease and premature aging. Protecting, producing, and repairing DNA is vital to the normal functionality of any organism and Vitamin B12 plays a critical role in this.
Signs & Symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency
Whilst the average person attains adequate amounts of vitamin B12 from regularly consuming animal products, Vitamin B12 is still one of the most common deficiencies in the world right now. There are groups of individuals that are more at risk of B12 deficiency such as:
- Individuals with gastrointestinal disorders such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease.
- Individuals who are insulin resistant or diabetic
- Individuals suffering from PCOS
- Those who eat a vegetarian or vegan diet, or limit animal products in their diet
- Individuals with the MTHR gene
- Individuals with low stomach acid
- Older adults
Vitamin B12 deficiency can take several years to develop symptoms, making early diagnosis difficult. Some of the most noteworthy symptoms include but aren’t limited to:
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Depression, anxiety, and mood disorders
- Memory loss
- Pale Skin
- Blurred Vision
For an extended list of Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms, check out Health Coach Kait’s YouTube video linked below, where she outlines 12 signs of vitamin b12 deficiency to watch out for.
What Foods Naturally Contain Vitamin B12?
We’ve learnt about the types of Vitamin B12, the functions of it in the body, as well as how deficiencies can manifest, and by now, you’re probably wondering what are the best food sources of Vitamin B12?
What Are The Best Sources Of Vitamin B12?
The best source of Vitamin B12 is found in a wide variety of animal products where it is naturally abundant. Vitamin B12 is not naturally found in plant sources, however, is often unnaturally fortified into various foods in the form of Cyanocobalamin, the synthetic form of Vitamin B12 which we discussed earlier.
Like humans, animals do not produce Vitamin B12 themselves. Vitamin B12 is the only vitamin that contains a trace element, cobalt, which is found in the grass and soil. Bacteria feed on the cobalt in the grass and soil, and when herbivore animals eat the grass, the bacteria multiply in their stomach, producing Vitamin B12 which accumulates in the animal’s tissues ready for us to access – another perfectly cyclic expression of mother nature.
Some of the best sources of Vitamin B12 include:
- Raw orFreeze-dried Beef Liver
- Raw orFreeze-dried Beef Heart
- Freeze-dried Beef Organ Powder
Through no coincidence, these are some of the most revered foods by traditional societies – seems like they may have been onto something!
One of the most convenient ways to increase levels of Vitamin B12 in modern times is to integrate freeze-dried beef liver capsules or freeze-dried beef liver powder into your daily routine. Each 3g (6 capsule) serve of Cell Squared’s freeze-dried beef liver contains a whopping 450% of the daily recommended value for an average adult.
As Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, the body will excrete excess amounts rather than store them in the body. Meaning that even at large doses, Vitamin B12 is generally considered safe, with very low potential for toxicity.
Vitamin B12 has many functions in the body, with deficiencies manifesting in many ways and often taking time to develop. Vitamin B12 is found in various forms, with some more bioavailable than others. Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient and the quickest way to improve levels of Vitamin B12 is through increasing your consumption of animal foods or by integrating freeze-dried beef liver supplements.
+++ DISCLAIMER: The information in this blog is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content is for general informational purposes only and does not replace a consultation with your own doctor/health professional.