Vitamin B12 is one of the eight B Vitamins and is usually associated with increased energy. It is in fact the largest of all the vitamins and of course the most complex chemically. It is an essential vitamin and the only one that contains cobalt, a trace mineral, at its center; this is why it is named cobalamin. Vitamin B12 is water –soluble and plays an essential role in the production of DNA, nerve function, cell metabolism, and red blood cell formation. Since B12 is water soluble the body rids itself of any excess or stores it in the liver for use later on when it is needed by the body, these stores can actually last up to a year so it may make finding low Vitamin B12 levels in the body very tough. Vitamin B12 works like a cofactor in the body, acting as a “helper molecule” in the body which aids in biochemical transformations and processes.
There are 2 different forms of Vitamin B12, Methylcobalamin (methylated) and Cyancobalmin (non-methylated):
Cyanocobalmin is a synthetic version of B12 and does not occur naturally in any living organism. It is a less expensive form of Vitamin B12 from a manufacturing point of view. Cyanocobalmin, actually contains a cyanide molecule at the center, which is found naturally in apple seeds and almonds, but the body is forced to remove and replace the molecule with a methyl group. In other words Cyanocobalmin must be broken down and converted to Methylcobalamin which is not always easily done, at least in most Americans.
Methylcobalamin is a bio-available and active form of Vitamin B12. This form of Vitamin B12 eliminates the need for converting the inactive form of B12 (Cyanocobalmin) to the active form (Methylcobalamin). Additionally the Methylcobalamin is able to cross the blood brain barrier and may stay in the body for longer time periods. It is also believed that the Methyl form of Vitamin B12 stays in the tissues longer and is better absorbed in the body.
Approximately 40% of individuals are deficient in Vitamin B12, because Vitamin B12 needs intrinsic factor, a protein, and adequate stomach acid to be absorbed. Dietary Vitamin B12 is only available in meat, fish and dairy products making vegans, vegetarians and pregnant women more at risk for a deficiency in this important nutrient. Signs of a Vitamin B12 deficiency may include fatigue, brain fog, including mood swings, depression, confusion and memory loss, weakness, numbness, tingling in feet and hands, and sleep disorders.
Vitamn B12 aids in the following:
Energy Production: B12 plays a role in various biochemical reactions within the body. As a matter of fact Vitamin B12 plays a role in synthesizing fatty acids and in energy production. Lack of energy and fatigue are usually an early sign of Vitamin B12 deficiency due to the contribution Vitamin B12 makes in strengthening red blood cell formation and anemia prevention.
Red Blood Cell and White Blood Cell Formation:Reduction in Vitamin B12 levels may cause a reduction in both red and white blood cell formation, both of which are required for immune system function, platelet formation, clotting and energy production. Vitamin B12 is essential for cell development and cell growth.
Neurotransmitter Creation:B12 is needed for GABA, an amino acid and neurotransmitter, to be created. GABA relaxes the brain. Vitamin B12 also acts as a cofactor in the blending of other neurotransmitters like norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine.
Hair, Skin and Nail Support:Adequate levels of Vitamin B12 levels promote the production and growth of hair, skin, and nails due to the role B12 plays in cell production. Low Vitamin B12 has been associated with skin disorders like hyperpigmentation, inflamed and cracked mouth corners and nail discoloration.
Myelin Production:The protective coating around the nerve cells found in the central nervous system have Myelin as a protective coating. The spinal, cranial and peripheral nerves are protected by myelin sheath produced from Myelin. A lack of myelin sheath can cause damage to nerves leading to neurological problems. Vitamin B12 is a major cofactor in the formation of myelin.
Mood Support:Reduced levels of Vitamin B12 have been linked to Depression as have high homocysteine levels. Studies have found twice the risk of severe depression associated with a Vitamin B12 deficeincy. Additionally GABA and serotonin, both of which aid in calming and anti-anxiety, require Vitamin B12 to be made. SAM-e, crucial for mood support and neurological function need both Folate and Vitamin B12 to be metabolized.
Eye and Cardiovascular Health:Folate and Vitamin B12 are both essential for homocysteine metabolism. Homocysteine is an amino acid found in the blood. High Homocysteine levels are a known risk factor for Cardiovascular Disease (CVD). Studies have shown Vitamin B12 supplementation may support lower Homocysteine levels. Additionally higher Homocysteine levels have also been associated with increased risks of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD).
Conception Support:Studies have found adequate levels of Vitamin B12 are needed for maintaining a healthy pregnancy. The development of the fetus’s nervous system and brain require B12 levels taken from the mother to insure proper development. Increased risks of birth defects have been seen when a Vitamin B12 deficiency occurs in the early stages of a pregnancy. A mother’s Vitamin B12 status may also contribute to an increased risk of miscarriages as well as to premature births.
Metabolism Support:To convert fats and proteins into energy the body need Vitamin B12. Additionally Vitamin B12 aids in carbohydrate breakdown. B Vitamins in general are needed for supporting the liver which works with creating and breaking down various hormones that effect metabolism, stress response and detoxification pathways.
DNA Production:Folate and Vitamin B12 availability throughout the body aids in the preservation of DNA integrity. Without adequate amount of Vitamin B12, Folate is trapped by the body in an unusable form resulting in the inability to synthesize DNA as well as a diminished capacity for methylation reactions elevating the rate of DNA damage increasing risk factors for cancer and diminishing cellular health.
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