WHAT IS VITAMIN B12?
Vitamin B12 is one of the eight B vitamins. It is necessary for various bodily processes, including metabolism, erythropoiesis (red blood cell production), and brain development. You can obtain this nutrient by consuming animal products, e.g., meat, fish, eggs, and milk. Some food products are also fortified with B vitamins. B12 is embedded in protein molecules and must be freed to allow absorption. Several compounds participate in this process, such as the stomach's hydrochloric acid and Intrinsic Factor (IF). B12 in dietary supplements and fortified food products does not go through this process anymore because it is already in free form. It is also available in tablets and lozenges using the sublingual method. B12 contains cobalt, and therefore it is also called "cobalamin".
WHAT IS VITAMIN B12 GOOD FOR?
Adequate vitamin B12 intake can promote normal red blood cell (RBC) development. It was observed that B12 deficiency causes the RBCs to become larger and more elongated, which can hinder their passage into the bloodstream. This delay can lead to megaloblastic anaemia. Research also shows that B12 has a role in maintaining normal bone density. For this reason, adults are encouraged to augment their intake of B vitamins—particularly those with a higher risk of osteoporosis or fracture. At the same time, B12 may prevent the loss of neurons and improve depressive symptoms. If you have a family history of macular degeneration or high blood pressure, you might also benefit from B12 supplementation.
IS IT SAFE TO TAKE VITAMIN B12 DAILY FOR THE LONG TERM?
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble nutrient so any excess amount will leave your body through sweat or urine. Even some supplements containing high doses of this vitamin are considered safe. This is because most of the B12 in supplements is not absorbed by the body. The extra doses serve as a cushion.
HOW MUCH VITAMIN B12 DO YOU NEED?
Vitamin B12, just like other B vitamins, is not difficult to come by. This is why it's easy for adults to achieve the daily recommended intake of 2.4 micrograms. Pregnant and breastfeeding women need a slightly higher dose to support their developing child. Older adults should get additional B12 from dietary supplements or fortified food because their stomachs don't produce as much hydrochloric acid. Individuals with certain gastrointestinal disorders may have to do the same thing. Because B12 is not present in plant food, vegans and vegetarians need to obtain them through other sources.