Are you worried you may have a vitamin B12 deficiency? You're not alone. It's estimated by the National Examination Survey that 3.2% of people over 50 have seriously low B12 levels, as reported by Harvard Health, and close to 20% have a borderline deficiency. (1) This shows how prevalent low levels are from either poor diet or inadequate absorption. In this article, we'll explore why you should use a B12 and its importance for optimal health.
Vitamin B12 is part of the B-vitamin family. It's water-soluble, meaning it dissolves in water before being transported by the bloodstream throughout the body. The human body keeps a reservoir of B12 for up to four years, and any excess amounts are released through urine.
B12 is also an essential vitamin your body needs but can't produce. To receive your daily dose, you must receive adequate amounts through diet or supplements.
The structure of vitamin B12 is vast and complex and happens naturally in meat products. It can also be manufactured through a synthesis called bacterial fermentation. (2)
Vitamin B12 can benefit the body in critical ways, from boosting cognition and energy to helping prevent macular degeneration. Here are a few positive health outcomes of vitamin B12.
Red blood cells are the most typical kind of blood cells and the principal means of moving oxygen to the body tissues. Red blood cells do this through blood flow in the circulatory system, and B12 plays a significant role in red blood cell formation in the bone marrow.
When your body has low levels, the red blood cells change from their standard shape into an oval. The irregular, oval shape makes it hard for the red blood cells to move from the bone marrow into the bloodstream quickly enough, causing weakness or megaloblastic anemia. (3)
In essence, B12 can also help prevent anemia. The fatigue from anemia may also mean not enough oxygen is reaching the vital organs. Not having enough oxygen in important organs may cause organ dysfunction or worse death.
Studies show that B-vitamins are crucial for maintaining a healthy pregnancy. Vitamin B12 may also help prevent major birth defects. (4) In India, Vitamin B12 first began to be used to help pregnant women with megaloblastic anemia.
Then through research, it became clear that low levels of B12 during pregnancy may result in low infant birth weight. Low birth weight makes newborns more susceptible to long-term developmental problems. Besides, it may result in further infections and disease in childhood and adolescence.
From the beginning of pregnancy, low vitamin B levels may increase the risk of birth defects, such as neural tube defects (NTD) in the spine and brain. Also, some evidence suggests that it may increase the chance of preterm delivery. Low B12 levels may also result in low levels in the infant or breastmilk.
Bones with low density may become fragile and weak over time. One cause may be low B12 levels. Evidence suggests that maintaining adequate stores of B12 support bone density. (5) Without proper support, men and women may develop osteoporosis.
The risk is even more of a concern for women. Studies have shown that there is a connection between low B12 and reduced bone density. (6) Taking a high-quality vitamin B12 supplement can help provide necessary bone density support.
Another benefit of vitamin B12 is it's hair, skin, and nail boosting power. The possible reason is the vitamin's role in DNA synthesis. Meaning, without adequate levels, your body has a hard time growing hair and nails.
If you have low levels, you may have brittle, discolored nails, or hair falling out in patches. Your skin may have hyperpigmentation, which is when your skin produces more melanin. Melanin is what gives your skin more color.
Or your lips may crack easily and have lesions around the edges of the mouth. All of which may be from a vitamin B12 deficiency. (7)
Living each day with mood swings and depression lowers the quality of your life. While there may be many reasons for these mental health conditions, it may be due to vitamin B12 deficiency and low serotonin levels.
Serotonin is a crucial bodily substance that provides mood balance, among other roles. B12 helps synthesize serotonin, and without adequate levels, your body may experience mood swings and depression. It stands to reason that low serotonin may mean low vitamin B12.
As you age, some memory loss occurs; however, poor memory and cognition may be due to low vitamin B12. The essential vitamin can help prevent brain atrophy or the loss of neurons in the brain. These specific neurons have a connection to dementia or memory loss.
One study showed that low vitamin B levels resulted in poor memory performance in patients with mild cognitive impairment. (8) This is why taking a B12 supplement or improving diet may help with memory loss and improve cognition.
Macular degeneration is an eye disease that primarily obscures your central vision. The occurrence of macular degeneration may come from low B12 levels in the body.
B12 helps minimize homocysteine, a kind of amino acid occurring in the body. Elevated homocysteine is a cause of macular degeneration, and high levels impair your ability to see clearly. While macular degeneration is an age-related disease, it may occur in all ages.
The reasons to use B12 depends on your body. However, vitamin B12 can improve memory, blood cell formation, and increase bone density, among other benefits. Improving your levels is possible with a B12 supplement.