The primary function of vitamin B12 is the formation of red blood cells and creation of genetic material such as DNA and RNA.
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) benefits
Critical to bodily functions such as red blood cell formation, neurological function, DNA and RNA synthesis, vitamin B12 (cobalamin) works with vitamin B9 (folic acid) to create red blood cells. Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) also works with vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) to regulate blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine (which is associated with heart disease).
Another benefit that results from vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is the treatment of pernicious anemia, a condition where the stomach cells are not able to make intrinsic factor, this is where the body in unable to absorb vitamin B12 (cobalamin) and must be treated with high doses of vitamin B12 (cobalamin) supplements. It can also be used to reduce the risk of coronary artery disease by reducing homocysteine levels.
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) may also play a role in reducing the risk of macular degeneration, reduce fatigue levels, lower the risk for breast cancer, and may improve fertility issues found in men. These are inconclusive benefits that require more studies to be performed before scientific conclusions are met.
Sources of vitamin B12 (cobalamin)
While vitamin B12 (cobalamin) occurs naturally in animal products such as fish, shellfish, dairy (milk, cheese, etc.), eggs, beef, and pork, this can be particularly troublesome for those who follow a vegan diet. In this instance, consult with your health professional to determine an appropriate supplement level.
Set forth by the National Academy of Sciences, the recommended daily allowances (RDAs) for vitamin B12 (cobalamin) are below (some individuals may be placed on a plan that requires higher than normal amounts to manage a specific issue they may be experiencing).
|Table 1: Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for vitamin B12 (cobalamin)1|
|0-6 months||0.4mcg/day (adequate intake)|
|7-12 months||0.5mcg/day (adequate intake)|
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) deficiency
A vitamin B12 (cobalamin) deficiency can lead to a variety of symptoms that include: fatigue, shortness of breath, diarrhea, nervousness, numbness or tingling feeling in the fingers and/or toes. A severe lack of vitamin B12 (cobalamin) can lead to nerve damage. Vegans and vegetarians often find it difficult to receive their recommended dietary allowances but those with a condition like Crohn's disease or some type of pancreatic disease, may also find it difficult to receive adequate amounts. This is caused by a problem with people being unable to effectively absorb the nutrients because vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is found in animal products and must be digested properly to be accessed.
Elderly people may find it difficult to effectively absorb vitamin B12 (cobalamin) so they may want to consider fortified foods or a supplement to reach their daily target.
1Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) - http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/vitamin-b12-000332.htm
Vitamin B12 - http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/