Vitamin B12 Cyanocobalamin
Vitamin B12 is composed of several compounds that are given the generic name cobalamins because all of them contain cobalt. Vitamin B12 cannot be synthesized by plants and is found primarily in meat and meat products. This is why vegetarians, and especially vegans, can have vitamin B12 deficiencies.
Vitamin B12 is necessary for the proper function of every cell in your body. It is also necessary for DNA and RNA synthesis, and the body needs additional vitamin B12 in areas where cells reproduce frequently, such as the blood and intestines. Without adequate vitamin B12, cells cannot divide and multiply. This can lead to anemia. In the intestines, it can mean a reduction in the absorption of nutrients, potentially causing other nutrient deficiencies. Vitamin B12 is useful in several other ways, including:
In some parts of the body, a shortage of vitamin B12 can interfere with cell growth, and the resulting cell abnormalities can eventually lead to cancer. Several studies have found an inverse relation between vitamin B12 status and breast cancer risk, especially in postmenopausal women.
B12 helps maintain myelin, the fatty sheath that surrounds and protects nerve fibers and promotes their normal growth. A B12 deficiency can cause myelin to break down, resulting in nerve damage, which can then contribute to serious nervous system problems. Various problems have been linked to vitamin B12 deficiency, including memory loss, confusion, delusion, fatigue, loss of balance, numbness and tingling in the hands, ringing in the ears and decreased reflexes. B12 deficiency has also been linked to multiple sclerosis-like symptoms and dementia.
Research indicates that vitamin B12 deficiency raises the levels of homocysteine, which has been suggested as a cause of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Vitamin B12 supplements can reduce homocysteine levels, which may reduce chronic stress.
The Bottom Line
The B vitamins are vital for good health. A deficiency of any of them can create a domino effect resulting in various health problems. B vitamins are crucial to proper body functioning, from creating and maintaining energy production to assisting enzymes in their many functions and assisting in the creation of red blood cells. B-vitamin deficiencies are linked to a host of ailments, including heart disease, dementia and cancer. A well-rounded diet can provide adequate amounts of B vitamins, but ample research suggests that many people do not get enough B vitamins; thus, B-complex supplements may help treat and prevent a wide variety of diseases and promote overall health.
Vitamins Fast Facts
Uses and Benefits: The benefits of B vitamins are wide-ranging, from prevention of heart disease and relief from depression and stress to cancer prevention and reduced symptoms of PMS. Additionally, all B vitamins are involved in myriad body processes that are essential for good health.
Sources: B-complex supplements or daily multivitamin / mineral supplements. Specific B vitamins are also sold individually.
Special Considerations: Because most B vitamins work synergistically, it’s best to take either a B-complex supplement or a multivitamin / mineral supplement with the full complement of B vitamins. Only take individual B-vitamin supplements if you know you’re deficient or if you have a specific disorder that would require therapeutic doses. Always consult with a qualified health care provider before beginning any such therapy.