Vitamin B12, also called cobalamin, is an essential nutrient that we need for numerous vital functions in our body - for example for the nervous system and blood formation. Since our body cannot produce vitamin B12 itself, we are dependent on external intake through food to prevent deficiency symptoms.
What does our body need vitamin B12 for?
As an all-round talent, vitamin B12 plays an important role in various metabolic processes. The vitamin is particularly important for functions affecting the nervous system , blood formation and detoxification , and for the breakdown of fatty acids. In addition, B12 plays a crucial role in converting the folic acid stored in the body into an active form so that it can be used by the body.
Vitamin B12 is also particularly important for our immune system: a vitamin B12 deficiency can jeopardize the formation of sufficient white blood cells, which are important for a strong body's immune system. As a result, our immune system is weakened and pathogens can penetrate the body more easily.
Due to its wide range of effects, vitamin B12 has a decisive influence on the physical condition of humans.
How does a vitamin B12 deficiency affect our body?
A vitamin B12 deficiency and the associated symptoms occur when the body has too little B12 available. However, this does not only happen when those affected eat too little vitamin B12-containing foods, but can also be the result of a physical disorder due to old age or illness. Since our body needs vitamin B12 for cell division, nerve function and blood formation, deficiency symptoms can also affect other areas such as our muscles or visual function. Anemia is usually one of the first symptoms that can occur as a result of a vitamin B12 deficiency.
A vitamin B12 deficiency can also lead to weakness, constipation, loss of appetite and weight loss. Neurological changes such as numbness and tingling in the hands and feet are also known side effects. Balance disorders, depression, confusion, dementia, declining memory, and pain in the mouth or tongue are other symptoms that a B12 deficiency can cause.
How can we provide our body with sufficient vitamin B12?
For an adequate supply, we must ingest vitamin B12 through our food. However, it is necessary for the gastrointestinal tract to be functional. This is the only way our body can absorb and process vitamin B12. The so-called "intrinsic factor" plays an important role here. If vitamin B12 gets into the stomach with the food, a complex mechanism starts: Vitamin B12 is released from the food in the stomach and bound to special transport proteins. One of them is the "intrinsic factor", which the body also needs for the absorption of vitamin B12 via the intestinal mucosa. Most of the vitamin B12 is stored in the body in the liver and can be broken down from here over several years, so that a possible deficiency only becomes noticeable after a few years.
Which foods contain vitamin B12?
B12 is mainly found in animal foods, i.e. in fish, meat, eggs and, to a lesser extent, in dairy products. Vegans and vegetarians in particular must therefore ensure that they have sufficient vitamin B12 intake in order to counteract a deficiency. Vegetarians can meet their B12 needs with a balanced choice of foods through eggs and dairy products. For people with a strictly vegan lifestyle, however, regular blood tests to ensure the need for B12 and an adapted substitution via food supplements are essential.
The following foods contain the most vitamin B12:
- Clams 84.1 mcg
- Beef liver 70.7 mcg
- Rainbow trout 5.4 mcg
- Sockeye Salmon 4.8 mcg
- Trout 3.5 mcg
- Tuna 2.5 mcg
Studies also show that elderly people in particular can be affected by a cobalamin deficiency - a fact that is often attributed to some diseases associated with old age. Therefore, people over 50 years of age are recommended to keep their vitamin B12 level constant by taking dietary supplements in order to prevent irreversible deficiency symptoms.
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