Find out why Vitamin B-12 is necessary for our body? 

When we think of our health, we focus on diet and exercise. Our gym memberships are renewed and there is a mad dash to the supermarket to buy ‘healthy’ food, items that look green, leafy and fat reducing. But it is important to make these decisions strategically and consume what our body needs. Imagine a car being filled with cooking oil instead of the petrol it requires. In theory, it’s the same but it isn’t what the engine needs. Maybe the car would hesitantly start but would it run the way it’s supposed to?

Our bodies are complex works of nature. Although we tend to focus on the macronutrients of carbohydrates, proteins and fats in our diets, we tend to overlook vitamins in our daily consumption. Vitamins are a category of organic substances that are present in tiny amounts in natural food. They are important for your metabolism to function properly. In total, there are 13 recognized vitamins. Today, let’s discuss a vital but often forgotten vitamin: Vitamin B-12

What is Vitamin B-12? 

It’s a nutrient that helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells strong. It is used in the formation of DNA, the genetic material present in all cells. Vitamin B-12 assists in the prevention of Anemia – Megaloblastic Anemia in particular

This water-soluble vitamin isn’t made naturally by your body, so it’s important to include sources of vitamin B-12 in your diet or supplements. The Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) is around 2.4 micrograms but the requirement is slightly higher for breastfeeding or pregnant women.

Don’t be too worried about over doing your consumption of vitamin B-12. Your body stores the excess in your liver and makes sure to use it when it’s needed.

Vitamin B-12 is absorbed through your stomach with the help of a protein called the intrinsic factor. It works to bind the molecules of the vitamin and helps in its absorption into your blood and cells. This vitamin is primarily found in animal products such as fish and diary. But for those with different dietary needs, fortified foods can still be used as excellent sources.

What does Vitamin B12 actually do?

This vitamin has numerous important benefits to our body.

  • Nervous System:  Vitamin B-12 helps in the development of neurotransmitters. Severe deficiency of this vitamin is displayed through numbness, tingling sensations and nerve damage. The absence of vitamin B-12 has been noted in nervous system disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
  • Red Blood Cell formation: Red blood cells carry oxygen to various organs and tissues in the body. A lack of vitamin B-12 can result in a serious form of anemia called Vitamin B-12 Deficiency Anemia.
  • Digestion: The development of anemia due to deficiency in vitamin B-12 often creates problems with malabsorption like Crohn’s disease or celiac disease. It can also result in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or loss of appetite.
  • Brain Function: The lack of vitamin B-12 causes a variety of neurological complications. Its severe deficiency can lead to memory issues, lack of concentration, depression and anxiety. Although low vitamin B-12 is rarely the sole cause of depression and anxiety, it does play a role as a contributing factor.

What to look out for 

Vitamin B-12 deficiency presents itself through the following symptoms.

  • Tingling feet or hands: The absence of vitamin B-12 can cause nerve damage or nerve conduction issues. This creates the feeling of tingles in your hands or feet.
  • Peripheral nerve damage: from lack of vitamin B-12 can lead to motor problems. It becomes difficult for a person to walk due to numbness in limbs.
  • Pale skin: Yellowish skin (jaundice) can be a symptom of severe deficiency.
  • Fatigue: Megaloblastic anemia created by an absence of vitamin B-12 can result in tiredness and weakness in the body.
  • Rapid heartbeat: The poor formation of red blood cells in the body due to the deficiency of this vitamin can force the heart to work overtime to pump blood/oxygen. This results in a fast paced heartbeat.

Where can you get it from? 

You must be curious about the different sources of this multi-tasking vitamin. You can get your share of Vitamin B-12 from:

  1. Animal Liver and Kidneys: Organ meats are amongst the most nutrient rich foods available. 10 grams of lamb liver contains the highest amount of vitamin B12 with 1,500% of the RDI you need.
  2. Seafood: Seafood is amongst the richest sources of vitamin B-12. Clams, a chewy shellfish is packed with the vitamin. Around 20 small clams will give you 3,300 of RDI. The slender fish, Sardine is a source of omega-3 fatty acids and a cup gives you double of the RDI. 75 grams of Mackerel, Tuna and other fish can ensure you reach your recommended dosage of RDI.
  3. Eggs: An easily available source of vitamin B-12. Two eggs can provide you with 1.5 micrograms of vitamin B-12.
  4. Fortified Cereal – For vegetarians or vegans, fortified cereal is a good source of vitamin B12. Food fortification is a method of adding nutrients that are not organically present in food.  Although it is not usually included in a healthy diet, it’s a way of getting your nutrients without depending on animal sources.  High fiber bran flakes can offer up to 37% of the RDI for vitamin B12. However, ensure the brand has low sugar and is high in fiber or whole grain.
  5.  Nondairy Milk (Fortified) – Switching to a vegan diet? Get your vitamin B12 from soy, almond and rice milk. Although typically not naturally high in this vitamin, they are generally fortified, making it a great source for consumption.

Vitamin B-12 has numerous benefits to the body, ranging from the proper functioning of the nervous system to relieving fatigue and stress. Symptoms of B-12 deficiency are often brushed off in the course of our busy working lives. Are you a company interested sharing knowledge on overall wellness with your employees? Contact The Fuller Life and organize health checks or seminars on health and wellness!

Remember, nourishing your health, can make you flourish in life.

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