The Importance of Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 (also known as cobalamin), is essential for cell replication, particularly for red blood cell production. It maintains the protective sheath around nerves (myelin) and assists in converting food to energy. Alongside vitamin B6 and folate, it also reduces levels of homocysteine, an amino-acid-like substance which is linked to increased risk of heart disease.
The body absorbs dietary B12 through a complex process. Digestive enzymes, in the presence of sufficient stomach acid, separate B12 from the protein in foods. The vitamin then binds with a substance called intrinsic factor (a protein produced by the cells of the stomach lining), before being carried to the small intestine, where it is absorbed.
Low levels of B12 have been linked to fatigue, depression, heart disease and ‘brain fog’.
Dietary Vitamin B12 is mostly found in animal products; red meat, fish, eggs and dairy, therefore deficiency is common for those following a vegetarian/vegan diet.
Given the complex nature of B12 absorption, injections are an effective way to raise deficiency levels quickly. It is also possible to have your blood levels tested to determine and enable the monitoring of your levels, which can further guide intervention and dosages of supplementation/frequency.
Those diagnosed with Crohn’s disease/stomach ulcers, low levels of stomach acid, excessive alcohol intake, or inadequate amount of intrinsic factor, are all contributing factors to low B12 levels. It is therefore important to get any of these conditions ruled out by your GP.