Vitamin B12 (also known as cobalamin) is part of the Vitamin B Complex group and plays a key role in the development and functioning of the brain and nervous system, as well as the formation and production of blood. Although it is water soluble, it has special properties that enable it to be stored by the body for years (other B vitamins or water soluble vitamins cannot be stored by the body).Although Vitamin B12 was being inadvertently used as a cure for pernicious anemia since the early 1900’s (by eating raw liver and liver juices), it was officially isolated (from the liver) in 1948 and named Vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 Benefits
Vitamin B12 plays an important role in various important functions of the body. Like all B vitamins, it is an essential nutrient. Below is a list of some of the known benefits of vitamin B12:
• Brain function and growth – vitamin B12 helps the brain in the growth stage, and helps maintain the healthy functioning of the brain
• Central Nervous System – Vitamin B12 also plays a key role in the function of the nervous system, including spinal cord health.
• Blood Formation – Vitamin B12 helps with the healthy production of red blood cells. A lack of B12 can cause severe anemia.
• Memory, Alertness and Senility – Vitamin B12 has shown to stop r even reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and brain atrophy. Elderly patients who receive B12 shots tend to have better memory and show less symptoms of Alzheimer’s or senility.
• Asthma – B12 is now being used as asthma treatment. Particularly in children, regular doses of B12 can significantly reduce shortness of breath (asthma attacks).
• Melatonin – Vitamin B12 has been found to play a key role in melatonin production. Melatonin is the hormone that helps you sleep properly (or well).
• Depression – Also used mainly for geriatric treatment, Vitamin B12 can help the body produce serotonin, thereby helping to treat depression, and help decrease feelings of depression.
• Vitamin B12 has been shown to help sperm motility and increase sperm production.
• HIV – In very recent studies, Vitamin B12 has shown promise in its ability to slow or cease the replication of some HIV viruses. In the future, Vitamin B12 may be a key ingredient in a cure for the HIV virus and AIDS.
Vitamin B12 Food Sources
Vitamin B12 can be found in a variety of food sources from the meat and dairy side of the food groups. Therefore, if you are a vegan or vegetarian, you may want to monitor your intake through your dairy (if you eat dairy) or if you are vegan, take supplemental B12. There are also many food products (cereals, yeasts, soy products) that are fortified with vitamin B12. Here is a list of food sources of Vitamin B12:
• Clams and oysters
• Salmon, bass, and bluefish
• Beef (ground or tenderloin, lean)
• Chicken (light meat)
• Turkey (light meat)
• Pork loin (lean)
• Cottage cheese, milk and yogurt
Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Deficiency in Vitamin B12 can cause many ailments including anemia. Immediate symptoms may include:
• loss of appetite
• shortness of breath
• sore mouth/tongue
• numbness in the extremities
Excessive deficiencies can cause damage to the nervous system, including degeneration of the spinal cord (Lichstheim Disease).
Vitamin B12 Overdose
Many studies have shown that there is no real toxic amount of B12 for a healthy individual. The case may be different for someone with liver problems or autoimmunity diseases. Nevertheless, it appears that B12 is one of the safer vitamins when it comes to toxicity.
Some side effects of too much vitamin B12 have been reported, such as: itchiness, redness, rosacea type acne lesions, diarrhea, and optic atrophy. Quite literally, the jury is still out on the toxicity of Vitamin B12. However, as with all vitamins, attention to safety, keeping out of the reach of children and consulting your doctor is the best way to stay safe.