Vitamin B12 isa water-soluble vitamin that is needed but not produced, by your body.It works in an incredible way within the body to effectively ensure that your organs are all functioning as they should be. And so, maintaining adequate B12 levels in the body will contribute greatly to your well-being.
The NHS recommended dose of vitamin B12 in adults (aged 19 to 64) is about1.5 mcg daily. (which is slightly higher for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding).
Like other B vitamins, B12 usesthe nutrients you eat (such as carbs, fat and protein)to create fuel for your body. It is not a stimulant like caffeine, meaning that it will not give you a sudden burst of energy. However, it boostsyour metabolism, making you more focused and active.
In fact, one of the most common, and perhaps the earliest, signs of a B12 deficiency is a feeling of fatigue or weakness, so adding B12 to your diet will help give you the energy you are lacking as a result of this deficiency.
2. Improves brain and nerve function
Maintaining adequate B12 levels may improve your brain's cognitive function and actually reduce the rate of mental degenerationwith age.
Vitamin B12 deficiency has been linked with the loss of brain neurones as a result of decreased oxygen to the brain, which may cause cognitive impairment, such as memory loss or problems with thinkingand/or reasoning.
Research has also shown that the consumption of vitamin B12 coupled withomega-3 fatty acids may help to reduce brain deterioration in persons with early-stage dementia.
3. Anemia Prevention
Vitamin B12 is crucial for red blood cell formation and development.Why is this important? Because the job of red blood cells is to carry oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body - so a B12 deficiency effectively means less oxygen to the body, which can result in anaemia.
Healthy red blood cells are small and round but become enlarged and oval-shaped when the body is lacking in B12, making it difficult for them to move into the bloodstream at the required rate. This can cause, what is known as, megaloblastic anaemia.
Low B12 levels can also cause pernicious anaemia, which is an auto-immune condition that affects the body’s immune system, making the body unable to absorb vitamin B12 properly.
Common signs and symptoms of anaemia may include, amongst others:
Shortness of breath;
Increased heart rate;
4. Improves heart health
Vitamin B12 plays in a role in regulating the body’s levels of cholesterol and homocysteine (a naturally occurring amino acid produced by the body), both of which are associatedwith an increased risk of heart disease when found in high levels in the body.
If left unregulated, homocysteineis believed to cause damage to the inner linings of arteries, increasing the risk of blood clot formation.
Therefore, consuming sufficient levels of B12 can actually prevent or help to reduce the riskofa heart attack or stroke.
5. Promotes digestion
Vitamin B12 actively works to reduce the problem-causing bacteria in the gut while promoting and increasing the good bacteriathat is needed for a healthy gut.
It is absorbed and integrated into a digestive fluid called bile, which helps to break down and digest fat, and by stimulating the production of digestive enzymes, it enhances the manner and rate of nutrient absorptionby the body.
This means that maintaining adequate levels of B12 can actually improve conditions such as candida and irritable bowel syndrome.
6. Enhances Mood
Your mood is affected by the level of serotonin in your body. Serotonin, sometimes called the‘happy chemical’, is a neurotransmitter that helps to transfer messages from one area of the brain to another.
Brain cells related to mood, appetite, sleep, sexual desire, sexual function, memory, learning, even temperature regulation(amongst others), areallinfluenced by serotonin.
In particular, a decreased level of serotonin productionis linked to a depressed mood.
So what has this to do with B12? Well, B12 supports and promotes the production and uptake of serotonin (and dopamine) by the body.
One study revealed that persons suffering from depression who were treated both with antidepressants and vitamin B12 would more likely show improved depressive symptoms than those only taking antidepressants. In another study, it was shown that increased levels of vitamin B12 in the body may, in turn, increase the probability of recovery from a major depressive disorder.
While more research is required on the effect of B12on mood, it may be said that maintaining regular levels ofB12 can improve your mood and reducethe level of stress and anxiety on the body by promoting the production ofmore ‘happy’ chemicals in the brain.
7. Prenatal Health
Vitamin B12 is vital for the development and overall health of the foetus. It aids in the body’s metabolism of folic acid, and when taken with folate, helps to produce foetal cells.
More importantly, vitamin B12 supports brain and spine development and helps to lower the risk of neural tube defects. Consequently, a B12 deficiency during pregnancy may contribute to the premature birth or miscarriage of the baby. B12 consumption, therefore, plays a positive role in helping the pregnancy reach its full term.
What’s more, it has also been known to help relieve morning sickness.
6. A Healthy Immune System
Vitamin B12 plays an essential role in the production of white blood cells- whichis what the body needs to fight off infection and other diseases.
Insufficient levels of B12 in the body can consequently alter and weaken the body’s immune responses.
Early research has not only shown links between immunological disordersand B12 deficiencies but has also revealed that adequate B12 levels may contribute to a reduced risk of cancer development.
9. Healthy Hair, Skin and Nails
Vitamin B12 is also very beneficial for the hair, skin and nails.
This is because it assists in the metabolism of protein, which is required by the body to promote and sustain healthy growth (and shine) to the hair, skin and nails and to repair damaged cells.
In particular, B12 is known to combat inflammation, dryness and acne, and to treat various dermatologic symptoms, including:
Hyperpigmentation: the development of dark/discoloured patches on the skin for example spots;
psoriasis: the development of red, bumpy and scaly patches of skin (more commonly formed on the knees, elbows, and scalp);
nail discolouration: nail may turn blue or develop wavy longitudinal dark streaks;
hair loss from the scalp;
Pale or yellow skin;
Because of its important role in the development and production of the body's red blood cells, Vitamin B12 is essentialfor bone-cell formation. But that’s not all.
Adequate consumption of B12 is also incredibly crucial for the proper functioning ofthe body’s bone-building cells (called osteoblasts).
In regulating the body’s homocysteine levels, B12 has been known to prevent and strengthen weakening bones by preserving bone mineral density.
In fact, a shortage of vitamin B12 can lower the body's bone mineral density, making your bones becomeweak and fragile over time, which may, in turn, increase your risk of osteoporosis (brittle-bone disease) - making you more susceptible to bone fracture and breakage!
Vitamin B12 plays so many different yet essential roles within your body. It works to prevent and treat a variety of ailments, and ultimately supports and promotes the proper functioning of your body as a whole. This is why it is so important to keep check of your B12 levels and to ensure that you are getting the requiredB12 dose every day.