Vitamin B12: to drink or not to drink?

If you do not want to read a detailed analysis of the vitamin B12, but want to understand whether you need to drink it, go to the end of the article.
IMPORTANT: ask your doctor for any questions about specific dosages, exact diagnoses, and how to use them.

B12 is one of the strangest and most complex vitamins in existence, and here’s why:

1. It is the only molecule in the human body that contains cobalt.
The B12 molecule is so complex that it took 11 years to synthesize it, and more than 100 scientists from different countries worked on the project.

Vitamin B12: to drink or not to drink?

2. We only need 2 micrograms of B12 per day.
At the same time, we can store up to 10 times more B12 than we need, which provides us with vitamin reserves for several years. This means that vitamin deficiency is quite difficult to earn if you eat a balanced diet.

3. Animals and plants cannot synthesize B12.
This can only be done by bacteria, including those that live in our gut. The problem is that B12 is absorbed in the small intestine, and the bacteria that produce it live in the large one (which is lower). So we have to eat B12 with food of animal origin.

Many mammals (especially herbivores) have come up with an ingenious method — coprophagia. They eat their feces with native bacteria in order to get B12 and other useful substances.

Why do we need B12

Vitamin B12 is involved in the synthesis of nucleic acids, red blood cells, and (most importantly) myelin, which accelerates the conduction of nerve impulses along nerve fibers.

The scheme is as follows: we consume vitamin B12 with food → gastric juice “splits” the vitamin from food → the castle factor is combined with B12 → B12 is absorbed in the small intestine → accumulates in tissues and organs (favorite place — the liver).

What’s the castle factor?

The discovery of this factor was the first step towards the discovery of vitamin B12.

I liked this story so much that I decided to include it in the post. Skip it if you want to get to the practical recommendations faster.

It all started in 1824, when there was first mention of a strange disease, pernicious anemia, the cause of which no one could guess. After 103 years, there was a breakthrough-William castle found the cause of the disease in an original way.
Castle’s experiment was as follows: one part of the anemia patients received raw cutlet, the other — gastric juice. And the third group was not very lucky — they were fed through a tube digested cutlet Castle, which lay in his stomach for an hour. As a result of the experiment, the third group became better, but the condition of the others did not change. Then castle realized that the cause of the disease is something that appears inside the stomach when we digest food. Patients do not have this factor, so they get sick. So he discovered the “castle factor”, which is secreted by stomach cells and helps vitamin B12 to be absorbed in the small intestine.

What is there to get B12

Since vitamin B12 is well stored in animal bodies, it is abundant in meat, fish and seafood. Other sources are animal products — eggs, milk, and all that is produced from it (cheese, butter, and yogurt).

For clarity, I made an infographic:

If you are a vegetarian, you can find vitamin B12 in nori, kimchi (not purchased), tempeh, Thai fish sauce. And there are vitamin-rich flakes and Chlorella extract, which you can buy as a Supplement.

What does the deficit lead to

    1. Megaloblastic anemia-violation of hematopoiesis. It’s quite rare. Usually manifests itself in people who do not develop the “castle factor” and newborns whose mothers are strict vegetarians .
    2. birth Defects — serious disorders of the child’s nervous system development. The risk of defects occurs if a woman has a low vitamin status during pregnancy.
    3. After birth, it is also important to ensure that children have sufficient vitamin intake, since severe B12 deficiency can lead to irreversible developmental delays . There is a correlation between low vitamin status in school-age children and poor cognitive ability and academic performance . So far, this is only a correlation, not a cause-and-effect relationship, but it’s worth thinking about.
    4. Nerve damage
    5. The deterioration of cognitive function is a serious deficit causes deterioration of memory and thought disorder.

Have lot to all these points leads to a serious vitamin B12 deficiency. A small deficit does not always lead to such clinical manifestations.Vitamin B12: to drink or not to drink?

Symptoms of B12 deficiency :

  1. Constant fatigue (even when you Wake up)
  2. Loss of appetite and weight loss
  3. Numbness in the hands or feet
  4. Difficulties maintaining balance
  5. Memory impairment
  6. Irritability

Who needs to think about taking a vitamin

B12 deficiency can occur if you do not consume enough vitamin from food or if you have problems with its absorption.

This leads to risk groups:

1. Vegetarians and vegans

Among this group, the deficit is widespread. The exact spread is difficult to determine and in research it is always different numbers, but if you take the approximate spread – it is 0-86. 5% .

Vegans are more likely to suffer from a deficit than vegetarians. The more strictly a person adheres to the nutrition system, the more serious the deficit is.

2. People who do not develop the “castle factor”.

3. People who:

  • made a resection of the stomach;
  • have chronic gastritis;
  • chronically take antacids, antibiotics, H2-antihistamines and proton pump inhibitors;
  • alcoholics.

4. Elderly people

Among the elderly, B12 deficiency occurs in 10-15% .

What to do if you are at risk

There are more products with B12. If you are in group – think about taking vitamin supplements.

A healthy person who eats a balanced diet does not need to take the vitamin A. At least, this necessity has not yet been proved by anyone .

How much vitamin B12 is needed per day?

Vegetarians can take 0.005-0.1 mcg per day or 2 mcg per week (1000 twice) to achieve their daily intake. But it is better to check the dosage with a doctor first.

How to take B12

There are two main methods: oral and by injection .

If you have problems with B12 absorption (anemia and gastrointestinal problems), then you may be more suitable for injections.

If there is a B12 deficiency due to insufficient consumption-tablets.

Will B12 help improve mental performance?
There is no evidence that vitamin B12 can improve cognitive abilities. Taking the vitamin is rather a way to avoid the deterioration of mental abilities that have occurred against the background of its deficiency. And for the most part, this applies only to the elderly.

Very briefly:

1. it is difficult for a Healthy person with a balanced diet to achieve a B12 deficiency. Therefore, you do not need to drink B12 in supplements — it does not make sense.

2. People who should consider taking B12:

  • elderly people
  • vegetarians and vegans
  • patients with chronic gastritis/receiving the medication to control the acidity of the stomach make gastric resection

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