Vitamin B12, also called cobalamin, is one of eight B vitamins. B vitamins are integral to human health because they serve to help the body convert carbohydrates into energy, or glucose. The usage of protein and fat is also enhanced by B vitamins, making them a necessity for healthy skin, hair, nails, eyes and a healthy liver. They also assist with nervous system function.
Vitamin B12 is particularly important for the maintenance of healthy nerve cells. You see, B12 helps to support proper production of RNA and DNA, both of which constitute the body’s genetic material. Both vitamin B12 and B9, or folic acid, work together to produce healthy erythrocytes — also known as red blood cells — and help iron work better in the body.
There are many signs of deficiency to be on the lookout for. Vitamin B12 is associated with several cognitive symptoms such as memory loss, impaired thinking and other general cognitive difficulties. People with B12 deficiency may have trouble walking or keeping their balance, and may also tend to stagger when in motion. Odd physical sensations such as numbness or tingling in the hands, legs and feet may also be present. Sometimes, these — or other odd sensations — may occur throughout the body, as well.
Other symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include jaundiced or yellowed skin, anemia, a swollen or inflamed tongue, and general weakness or fatigue. Shortness of breath and increased nervousness are are also potential symptoms of deficiency. Extreme vitamin B12 deficiency can also result in nerve damage.
It is relatively rare for younger individuals to become deficient in vitamin B12, but older individuals are more susceptible. Vegans or vegetarians who don’t eat eggs or dairy are also at an increased risk of B12 deficiency, since it is primarily found in animal products. People who are suffering with a condition that impairs their ability to absorb nutrients, such as inflammatory bowel diseases, pancreatic disease, H. pylori infections or other conditions are also at an increased risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. People with diseases such as diabetes, HIV, or those suffering with eating disorders are also likely to become deficient in B12.
Some of the best sources of vitamin B12 include fish, shellfish, eggs, dairy products, beef and pork. Of course, it is always important to make sure that your food is organic and grass-fed or wild-caught to ensure you’re getting the best quality.
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