What does vitamin B12 do

March 4, 2013

Vitamin B12 is a member of the vitamin B complex group. It is used in treating pernicious anemia. Since vitamin B12 contains cobalt, it is also called cobalamin. Basically, vitamin B12 is present in protein rich foods such as eggs, meat, dairy products, shellfish and liver. In fact, it is attached to the protein in these food sources. When consumed, it is released by the hydrochloric acid secreted in the stomach as part of the process of digestion.  Once it is released, it blends with a substance that is produced by the stomach mucosa referred to as intrinsic factor or IF.  After that, the body will easily absorb it from the intestinal tract. Its deficiency can lead to pernicious anemia which is often due to the lack of intrinsic factor.

Vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin similar to other vitamins which belong to the B-complex group.  A few of its main functions include helping in red blood cell formation and maintaining a healthy nervous system.

Human Nervous System: Vitamin B12 is important in maintaining the nervous system at its best. The nerves are surrounded with myelin which is a complex protein with an insulating fatty covering.  Myelin is maintained at its best by cobalamin. It metabolizes the fatty acids necessary for its maintenance. If deficiency is present for a prolonged period of time, it will result to nerve degeneration. It can also have irreversible damage to the neurological system.

Red Blood Cells: Vitamin B12 is also an important factor for the rapid synthesis of DNA during the process of cell division. This is particularly necessary in tissues in which cells divide quickly. An example of which is the tissues of the bone marrow in which the formation of red blood cells occur.  Vitamin B12 deficiency will result to a disruption in the production of DNA. In turn, abnormal cells will occur. These are called megaloblasts.  Most likely, anemia will occur resulting to susceptibility to infection, pallor, listlessness, excessive fatigue and breathlessness. Other effects of anemia include sore and smooth tongue and also menstrual disorders.

When combined with folic acid and vitamin B6, vitamin B12 can help control the levels of homocysteine.  If the homocysteine levels are high, it will increase the risk of conditions such as stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, coronary heart disease and osteoporosis.

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