The vitamin B12 is one of the B vitamins that are essential to maintain a healthy body. Otherwise known as Cobalamin, the vitamin B12 is needed for the processes to convert the carbohydrates, fats and proteins from food into energy. vitamin B12 also, more importantly, helps keep the red blood cells healthy and therefore prevent heart disease as well as keeping the immune system functioning at its maximum level. In addition, vitamin B12 is used to create the protective covering of all nerve cells in the body.
The most important function of vitamin B12 is to form healthy red blood cells. However, all cells need vitamin B12 to keep them healthy. It is the white blood cells, amongst others, that need vitamin B12 to help ensure that the immune system functioning properly. All of the nerve cells in the body also need vitamin B12 to form their protective fatty layer. This is essential for all of the nerves but is especially so for those in the brain. If there is not sufficient vitamin B12 to create this protective layer then the brain will not be functioning properly.
Interestingly, the amount of vitamin B12 that the body needs is relatively small but is needed on a regular basis. However, vitamin B12 on its own is not enough as the body cannot absorb it easily. To help the body absorb vitamin B12 the stomach produces intrinsic factor which enables more of the vitamin B12 to be absorbed. Vitamin B12 is only found in animal foods such as liver, eggs, fish and meat but most people consume far more than their recommended daily amount of vitamin B12. This is not a problem as the body can only absorb about half of the vitamin B12 that is consumed. It is also worth noting that the body can recycle the vitamin B12 which cuts down on the impact of a vitamin B12 deficiency. However, strict vegetarians or vegans are likely to require vitamin B12 supplements if they do not eat any animal products that contain vitamin B12.
If the body does not have enough vitamin B12 then anaemia is the most obvious symptom. Obviously, this is due to the fact that there is not enough vitamin B12 to make healthy red blood cells. Anaemia can also be caused by the body not creating enough intrinsic factor to help absorb the vitamin B12 that is available in the food consumed. The body tends to makes less intrinsic factor once a person reaches 50 and this will lead to less vitamin B12 being absorbed and supplements of vitamin B12 may be required. Kids are also at risk from anaemia because they may not eat the food that contain vitamin B12. Pregnant women need more vitamin B12 because the baby is absorbing vitamin B12 during the pregnancy to grow properly.