Vitamin B12 may help prevent memory loss and dementia
Recently vitamin B12 made news headlines. A University of Oxford study found that people who had higher than average levels of vitamin B12 in their blood were six times less likely to experience brain shrinkage compared with those who had lower than average levels of the vitamin in their blood.
Brain shrinkage has been shown to have a strong link with the development of dementia and memory loss in later life. Here are some important things you need to know about vitamin B12.
What is Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is a member of a group of water-soluble vitamins known as B complex. It is unique in several ways. It is the only B vitamin that the body stores in substantial amounts. It has the largest and most complex molecular structure of all vitamins. And it is the only vitamin that contains a metal ion, of cobalt. That is why it is also known as cobalamin—a portmanteau of cobalt and vitamin.
What is the function of Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 helps in the formation of healthy red blood cells, thus protecting the body against pernicious anemia. It is also necessary for the maintenance of healthy nerves, proper energy metabolism, cell replication, and the creation of the genetic material in cells known as DNA and RNA.
A deficiency of this vitamin can cause fatigue, depression, confusion, memory loss, muscle weakness, and numbness and tingle in the hands and feet due to nerve damage. If you suspect you have a B12 deficiency, see your doctor. He can order a blood test for you.
Recommended Daily Allowance and Sources
The recommended daily allowance for adults is 2.4 mcg. The only food sources of vitamin B12 are animal products such as milk, eggs, meat, poultry, and fish. Clams, mussels, and beef liver are particularly rich sources.
Should you supplement vitamin B12?
It is best to obtain all your vitamins and minerals from wholesome food. There are, however, three groups of people who should take a multivitamin supplement to prevent a deficiency.
- People over 50 years of age: Experts estimate that as many as 20 percent of older adults are deficient in vitamin B12 but don’t know it. The reason for this is that vitamin B12 in food is bound with protein, causing malabsorption. Synthetic vitamin B12 is not protein-bound and is, therefore, better absorbed.
- Strict Vegetarians: Strict vegetarians should take a multivitamin supplement because animal products are the only food source of this vitamin.
- Pregnant Women: Pregnant women need extra B12 for the additional red blood cells their body produces and for the fetus to produce its own entire blood supply.