Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin that your body needs to thrive, but cannot produce itself. It is found naturally in animal products, such as meat, fish, and dairy, and is also readily available in supplement form. This important vitamin is critical to the body’s metabolic function and energy production. It even helps to create DNA, the genetic material in every cell of the body.
Why you need vitamin B12
It plays an essential role in the formation and metabolism of your red blood cells. It also helps maintain the overall health of your nerve cells and works to form their protective covering, known as the myelin sheath. It is needed for eyesight, healthy skin, hair, and nails, and prevents certain types of anemia. It’s even known to improve your memory, your mood, and your energy level! You could say that vitamin B12 is like the superhero of vitamins.
But despite its indispensable benefits, vitamin B12 is water-soluble. This means that it can dissolve in water and therefore is carried to the body’s tissues, but is not stored in the body. So you must get vitamin B12 through the foods you eat, or through supplementation.
Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency
Fortunately, most people in the U.S. get enough vitamin B12 in their diets, but as we age, it can become more difficult to absorb. People with conditions that affect the small intestine, such as Crohn’s disease, or eat a vegan diet, may be more likely to develop a deficiency.
Some symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include; feeling weak, tired, lightheaded, nerve problems such as numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, muscle weakness, or even difficulty walking. Depression and memory loss can also be symptoms, as can pale skin or loss of appetite. Fortunately, a B12 deficiency can typically be reversed with vitamin supplements.
Best sources of vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is found in animal products. Organ meats such as liver and kidneys are rich in vitamin B12, as are beef, chicken, and fish. It is also found in eggs and dairy products.
All B12 vitamins are not the same
When it comes to vitamin B12, it’s important to recognize that not all forms are the same. The most common form found in supplements is called cyanocobalamin, which is a manufactured form that is not derived from animals or from plants. Two other available forms are naturally occurring: methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin. These are considered to be more active and they do a better job of generating the chemical reactions needed for good health. Each one has slightly different health advantages, but both are better absorbed and retained in the tissues in higher amounts than the cyanocobalamin form.