Vitamin B12 is a crucial nutrient that plays a role in brain and nervous system function, red blood cell production, and overall health. It is commonly found in animal products, and deficiency can lead to a range of symptoms and health problems. Treatment typically involves vitamin B12 injections or supplements, and adequate intake of vitamin B12 is important for overall health and disease prevention.
10 Key Takeaways
Brain and Nervous System Function: Vitamin B12 plays a critical role in the proper functioning of the brain and nervous system. It is involved in the production of myelin, a fatty substance that surrounds and protects nerve fibers. A deficiency in vitamin B12 can lead to neurological symptoms, such as numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, difficulty walking, and cognitive impairment.
Red Blood Cell Production: Vitamin B12 is necessary for the production of red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body. Without enough vitamin B12, the body cannot produce enough red blood cells, leading to anemia.
Food Sources: Vitamin B12 is naturally found in animal products, including meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. Vegetarians and vegans may have difficulty getting enough vitamin B12 from their diets and may need to take supplements.
Deficiency: Vitamin B12 deficiency is common, especially among older adults and people with certain digestive disorders. Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency may include fatigue, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite, weight loss, and megaloblastic anemia.
Diagnosis: Vitamin B12 deficiency can be diagnosed with a blood test that measures the amount of vitamin B12 in the blood. Other tests, such as a complete blood count and a bone marrow biopsy, may also be used to determine the cause of anemia.
Treatment: Treatment for vitamin B12 deficiency typically involves vitamin B12 injections or oral supplements. For people with digestive disorders, such as Crohn's disease or celiac disease, vitamin B12 supplements may need to be given intravenously.
Health Benefits: Adequate intake of vitamin B12 is important for overall health, and it may also help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cognitive decline in older adults. Some studies have also suggested that vitamin B12 may play a role in preventing depression and improving mood.
"Vitamin B12." National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Accessed March 31, 2023. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-Consumer/.
"Vitamin B12 Deficiency Anemia." Mayo Clinic. Accessed March 31, 2023. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/vitamin-deficiency-anemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355025.
"Vitamin B12 and Health." Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Accessed March 31, 2023. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-b12/.