The Benefits of Food With Vitamin B12

B12 refers to a family of cobalamine compounds and it is an important vitamin. It plays a role in modifying Vitamin B6 (folate), which in turn is needed for making DNA. Metabolizing fatty acids and amino acids also requires B12. But that’s not all. B12 also has a part in developing the protective myelin sheaths that surround your nerve fibers. Your body can not make B12. Instead, it must be absorbed from food in your gut with the help of a compound called intrinsic factor.

Intrinsic factor is made in cells that line the stomach. Vitamin B12 will not be absorbed unless intrinsic factor is present. Deficiencies of B12 can cause serious disease, but it takes a long time to show up because your liver can store a supply of 5 to 7 years’ worth. Good sources of B12 include liver, milk, eggs, fish, cheese, and muscle meats. 

How B12 Helps You Live

Like all vitamins, B12 is an organic compound required in minute amounts for the growth and maintenance of your body. Folate, another member of the B Vitamin family, is essential for the synthesis of DNA. But folate is unable to participate in creating DNA unless it is first activated by B12. If either B12 or folate is deficient, the result is anemia. A deficiency of only B12 results in a kind of anemia in which red blood cells are enlarged and do not carry oxygen properly. But a deficiency of only B12 over the long term will also produce damage to the nervous system. This is because B12 is needed to form and maintain the protective myelin sheath that covers nerve fibers.

Rich Food Sources of Vitamin B12

The most reliable sources are from foods of animal origin. These include liver, milk, eggs, cheese, poultry, fish and meat. . The government Dietary Reference Intakes guide recommends 2.4 micrograms of Vitamin B12 daily. One 8-ounce glass of skim milk provides nearly half the daily requirement of B12.

Why You Must Eat Your B12

Plants and animals are unable to make Vitamin B12. Only bacteria can make it. But the B12 made by bacteria that live in the human gut cannot be absorbed to your bloodstream. That is why people get most their B12 by eating animal products.

Not Enough B12

B12 deficiency doesn’t usually come from eating too little in your diet. Often, it is because the B12 isn’t being absorbed in your gut. A frequent cause of this is a lack of intrinsic factor, a chemical made in your stomach that is required for B12 absorption. When this happens, it can cause a disease called pernicious anemia. This disease was once fatal. Now, it can be managed successfully. Deficient B12 causes oversized red blood cells to be released. If severe enough, it can cause death as low blood oxygen levels lead to heart failure. Early signs of a B12 deficiency include nervous system symptoms, such as tingling or numbing of the hands and feet. Later symptoms include loss of memory, mood changes and even psychosis. A lack of B12 also leads to a lack of white blood cells and platelets.  Damage to the nervous system from a chronic deficiency usually can be reversed, albeit slowly.

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