Vitamin B12 – Sources, Deficiency, Benefits, Diagnosis and Treatment

Vitamin B12 – Sources, Deficiency, Benefits:

Our body needs various types of vitamins, minerals, proteins, fiber, and carbs to keep it healthy. Most nutrients are usually obtained from different food sources. Vitamin B12 is a vitamin that is very useful for the body but is not synthesized in the human body.

Vitamin B12 is also known as Cobalamin. The lack of vitamin B12 leads to many problems. Here we discuss What is vitamin B12, why vitamin B12 is important for the body, what are the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency and what are benefits of vitamin B12.

Vitamin B12 plays a special role in the formation of red blood cells in the body and in making the nervous system healthy. It is considered very beneficial for mental health. Vitamin B12 protects against brain damage and diseases like Alzheimer’s. In addition to this, it reduces stress, so this vitamin is also known as an anti-stress vitamin.

Vitamin B12 Definition:

  • Vitamin B12  is a water-soluble vitamin that is naturally produced by microorganisms but is not synthesized in the human body.

Vitamin B12 - Sources, Deficiency, Benefits

What is vitamin B12?

  • Vitamin B12  is a water-soluble vitamin that belongs to the B complex of vitamins. 
  • It contains cobalt and a cyano group and therefore vitamin B12 is also known as cobalamin or cyanocobalamin.
  • It is also called a red vitamin because it consists of cobalt. 
  • There are four common derivatives of vitamin B12, namely cyanocobalamin, methylcobalamin, adenosylcobalamin, and hydroxocobalamin.
  • Cobalamin is the only vitamin that contains metal elements.
  • Cyanocobalamin is involved in the metabolism of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.
  • Vitamin B12 is not synthesized in the human body. 
  • Its intake occurs with food – sources of vitamin B12. Contain cobalamin products of animal origin: liver, beef, fish, eggs, milk, and cheese. 
  • Vitamin B 12 can only be synthesized by bacteria and archaea (single-celled microorganisms), which have unique enzymes necessary for its synthesis.
  • Most of all cyanocobalamin (B12) vitamins are stored in the liver. A large amount of it is absorbed by the spleen and kidneys, somewhat less by the muscles.
  • Vitamin B12 has two active coenzymes, methylcobalamin, and deoxyadenosylcobalamin. They carry methyl one-carbon groups (the process of transmethylation). 
  • Vitamin B12 is a cofactor for the enzyme homocysteine ​​methyltransferase, which is involved in the conversion of homocysteine ​​to methionine. 
  • Methionine is important for the synthesis of phospholipids and the myelin sheath of neurons.
  • B12 is also involved in the synthesis of methionine, acetate, and deoxyribonucleotides (metabolism of proteins and nucleic acids).
  • Cyanocobalamin is a coenzyme that transports folic acid into cells. Methylcobalamin is involved in the synthesis of the active form of folic acid, through which the formation of pyrimidine and purine bases, nucleic acids.
  • The main physiological function of vitamin B12 is to participate in the production of bone marrow red blood cells to prevent pernicious anemia; to prevent damage to the brain nerves.
Structure of Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin):
Structure of Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)

Vitamin B12 is a polycyclic compound containing trivalent cobalt. Four reduced pyrrole rings are linked together to form a corrin macrocycle (similar to porphyrin), which is the core of the vitamin B12 molecule. Therefore, compounds containing this ring are called corrinoids. Vitamin B12 is a light red needle-like crystal.
Is vitamin B12 harmful to the body?
The daily requirement of vitamin B12 for normal adults is 2.4 micrograms. People with a normal diet and normal gastrointestinal digestion and absorption function generally do not lack vitamin B12. It is a drug that is poisonous, and vitamins are no exception. The following adverse reactions may occur when vitamin B12 is ingested in large doses for a long time. Hyperuricemia. Vitamin B12 can promote nucleic acid degradation, increase blood uric acid, lead to hyperuricemia, and in severe cases can induce gout.
Benifits of Vitamin B12:
The main functions and functions of vitamin B12 are as follows:
  • Vitamin B12 production promotes the development and maturation of red blood cells and prevents pernicious anemia.
  • Vitamin B12  also helps to produce energy by converting carbohydrates into glucose.
  • It plays an important role in the development and functions of brain and nerve cells.
  • Cobalamin helps in the production of the body’s genetic materials DNA and RNA.
  • It helps in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
  • It can promote the synthesis of protein, which plays an important role in the growth and development of infants and young children.
  • It is an indispensable vitamin for the function of the nervous system and participates in the formation of lipoprotein in the nervous tissue.
  • Vitamin B12 can improve brain metabolism, enhance memory, 
  • It takes part in the synthesis of neurotransmitters and maintains the metabolism and function of nerve myelin. 
  • Vitamin B12 is used to treat Alzheimer’s disease and peripheral neuropathy.
  • Vitamin B12 can also participate in the metabolism of homocysteine ​​and reduce the level of homocysteine ​​in the blood, so it can be used for hyperhomocysteinemia.
Sources of vitamin B12:
As we know neither plants nor animals synthesize vitamin B12, it can only be processed and synthesized by microorganisms. The sources of vitamin B12 are still relatively extensive, including animal liver, beef, chicken, cheese, eggs, fish, milk, seafood, and other foods. Plant foods contain almost no vitamin B12, and animal foods contain more vitamin B12. Here below we discuss 10 vitamins B12-rich foods, Take a look…
Vitamin B12 - Sources
  • Egg: Eggs are the finest source of vitamin B12 and proteins. Eating two eggs meets about 46% of the daily requirement of your body. Higher levels of vitamin B12 are present in egg yolk than in egg whites. Eggs contain vitamins and minerals that are necessary for the heart, brain, and nervous system to function properly.
  • Soybean: Vitamin B12 is abundant in soybeans. You can also use soya milk or soybean oil as a source of vitamin B12.
  • Oats: Oats not only reduce weight but also provide plenty of fiber and vitamins. Oats are a good source of Vitamin B12.
  • Milk: Most of the nutrients are found in milk. By consuming milk we can overcome vitamin B12 deficiency. Milk is a great source of Vitamin B12 which is found in good quantity. Milk and other dairy products are a good source of many essential nutrients, including calcium, protein, many vitamins, and minerals.
  • Yogurt: It is an abundant source of vitamins B1, B2, and B12. By consuming yogurt we can overcome vitamin B12 deficiency. Similar to milk, yogurt also provides many nutrients such as vitamin B12, calcium, and protein, it is also a source of probiotics.
  • Cheese: Cheese is also a good source of vitamin B12, protein, and calcium. You can consume cottage cheese to get a proper amount of vitamin B12. About 28% of the daily requirement for vitamin B12 is found in 22 grams of cheese.
  • Fish: There are many options for vitamin B12 for people who eat non-veg. The lobster, tuna, salmon, and other seafood you eat get vitamin B12. Salmon and tuna is a great source of nutrients, including protein, vitamins, and minerals. A 100-gram serving of cooked tuna contains 453% of the daily requirement for vitamin B12.
  • Chicken: Chicken is filled with high-quality proteins and vitamins. Chicken contains a good amount of vitamin B12. Apart from this, vitamin B9 is also found. With chicken, you can meet the daily need for vitamin B12 for a healthy life.
  • Meat: Meat is an excellent source of Vitamin B12, high-quality protein, folic acid, iron, and essential amino acids. About 190 grams of meat provides 467% of the daily requirement of vitamin B12. Vitamins B2, B3, and B6 are also found in meat.
  • Mushroom: Mushrooms are considered a good source of vitamin B12, protein, minerals, antioxidants calcium, and iron. Mushrooms reduce the risk of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
What is vitamin B12 deficiency?
Vitamin B12 deficiency is a nutritional deficiency disease caused by anemia, nervous system, and skin and mucous membrane damage caused by insufficient intake of vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 deficiency causes pernicious anemia by affecting red blood cells. The main symptoms include headache, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, numbness in the hands and feet, and mental depression. It is clinically characterized by anemia, neurological disorders, and extensive hyperpigmentation of the skin.
The disease is mainly caused by insufficient intake of vitamin B12 (such as congenital insufficient reserves, long-term vegetarian diet, etc.), as well as abnormal absorption, transport, and metabolism due to various reasons. A preventive measure is to eat foods high in vitamin B12, such as seafood and eggs, and milk. It is generally said that there is no need to worry about overdosing on vitamin B12 because it is not absorbed more than necessary even if it is taken in excess.
The main treatment is to supplement vitamin preparations and adjust the dietary structure. If vitamin B12 deficiency is not treated in time, it will cause skin damage, nervous system damage, anemia, etc., and even death in severe cases. Usually ensuring the intake of meat and dairy products, can prevent the occurrence of the disease.
Causes of vitamin B12 Deficiency:
Vitamin B12 deficiency is caused by a lack of an intrinsic factor secreted by the stomach that is necessary for the absorption of vitamin B12. To absorb vitamin B12 in the intestine, it is necessary to bind not only vitamin B12 but also an endogenous factor, which is a kind of protein. However, if the endogenous factor is not produced from the stomach for some reason, symptoms occur due to the inability to absorb vitamin B12.
  • Insufficient intake of vitamin B12: Insufficiency of congenital reserve: Pregnant women are often deficient in vitamin B12 due to a long-term vegetarian diet, pernicious anemia, and gastrointestinal surgery, which leads to a decrease in the congenital reserve of newborns.
  • Unreasonable dietary structure: Long-term vegetarian or phenylketonuria patients who refuse to consume animal protein for a long time can cause vitamin B12 deficiency in the body.
  • Pernicious anemia: Pernicious anemia is the most common cause of vitamin B12 deficiency.
  • Abnormal Absorption: Abnormal or absent intrinsic factor, slow release of vitamin B12, reduced absorption of vitamin B12 in the body. In abnormal absorption, our body is unable to absorb nutrients from their diets, such as carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals or vitamins, etc.
  • Inborn errors of vitamin B12 transport and metabolism: A series of inborn errors of cobalamin synthesis can lead to cobalamin deficiency. Even vitamin B12 transport and metabolism can also cause vitamin B12 deficiency.
  • Other factors: The anesthetic nitrous oxide can cause the loss of biological activity of vitamin B12 and cause spinal cord degeneration; large doses of vitamin C can lead to decreased utilization of vitamin B12 in food; inappropriate folic acid supplementation can induce or exacerbate vitamin B12 deficiency.
Common symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency:
Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include anemia, peripheral neuropathy, spinal cord injury, and cognitive impairment. In mild cases, anemia causes pale skin, weakness, and fatigue. In severe cases, it can cause difficulty breathing and dizziness. In the elderly, neuropathy develops, and it progresses to loss of position sense. In addition, difficulty walking due to muscle weakness, mild depression, hypersensitivity, and disturbance of consciousness may develop.
  • Fatigue: Fatigue is a feeling of constant tiredness or weakness. Anemia caused by vitamin B-12 deficiency results in insufficient red blood cells that carry oxygen into various tissues and organs of the body, making it easy to feeling of constant tiredness or weakness. Fatigue makes it hard to do your usual daily activities.
  • Shortness of breath: Some people with anemia have shortness of breath is a common symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency.
  • Mood ups and downs: Vitamin B12 can also participate in the metabolism of homocysteine ​​and reduce the level of homocysteine ​​in the blood. Vitamin B12 will help break down a brain chemical called homocysteine. When homocysteine ​​is excessively accumulated in the brain, it may make people feel irritable or affect their mental health.
  • Loss of appetite: People who are deficient in vitamin B12 may experience loss of appetite due to digestive issues, and chronic loss of appetite can lead to weight loss.
  • Loss of Memory: Insufficient concentration of vitamin B12 in the body can cause cognitive impairments such as difficulty in thinking, and reasoning, or loss of fragmented memory, which is caused by the reduction of the oxygen-carrying capacity of the brain. Therefore, some scholars have conducted further research and found that insufficient vitamin B12 concentration will increase the risk of dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
  • Rapid heartbeat: When anemia occurs, to maintain enough oxygen to enter tissues and organs, the body will increase the blood flow rate of the body and the circulation rate of the whole blood, which will force the heartbeat to become faster.
  • Problems in the oral cavity: Lack of vitamin B12 will reduce the number of red blood cells, make insufficient oxygen carry into the tongue, and reduce the metabolic rate of waste, which can easily cause oral problems. Examples include a bitter taste in the mouth, mouth sores, inflammation, swelling, or burning in the mouth.
Testing of Vitamin B12 Deficiency:
To detect vitamin B12 deficiency, a blood test measures the level of vitamin B12 in the blood. If the problem is not too serious, such as inadequate intake due to an unbalanced diet or malabsorption in the elderly, there is no other test. To find out the cause of deficiency in young people, other blood tests, endoscopy, and Schilling test (to know how much vitamin B12 is taken in the mouth and excreted in the urine) are used to determine whether the absorption in the body is normal. or measure), etc.
Diagnosis of Cobalamin (Vitamin B12) Deficiency:
To diagnose deficiency you must collect the patient’s medical history, including surgical trauma history, and eating habits, and combined with clinical symptoms such as extensive pigmentation, anemia manifestations, neurological manifestations as well as laboratory tests of decreased serum vitamin B12 levels, abnormal Schilling test results, etc. Diagnose the disease.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency Prevention
Deficiency of vitamin B12, mainly due to insufficient intake or reduced absorption. Develop reasonable dietary habits and ensure adequate intake to avoid the occurrence of the disease. The specific prevention methods are as follows:
Supplement enough meat, eggs, dairy products, and other animal foods every day, such as chicken liver, sirloin, cheese, lean pork, sardines, tuna, oatmeal, etc.
In patients after gastrointestinal surgery, routine supplementation of vitamin B12 preparations can prevent the occurrence of this disease
Frequently Asked Questions on Vitamin B12:

1. What happens if you don’t have enough vitamin B12?
Answer: Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause Anemia, nerve damage, causing tingling or loss of sensation in the hands and feet, muscle weakness, loss of reflexes, difficulty walking, confusion, and dementia. The diagnosis of vitamin B12 deficiency is based on blood test results.
2. What foods are high in vitamin B12?
Answer: Vitamin B12 is abundant in seafood, algae, meat, eggs, and milk. It is not included in vegetable foods such as vegetables, fruits, mushrooms,,,, and potatoes.
3. What does vitamin B12 do?
Answer: As a coenzyme (a component that supports enzymes), vitamin B12 is involved in amino acid metabolism, nucleic acid metabolism, and folic acid metabolism. In addition, it is a nutrient necessary for the normal maintenance of the function and development of many body tissues, including normal red blood cell production, cranial nerves, and blood cells.
4. How can I know if I have a vitamin B12 deficiency?
Answer: The main symptoms of a deficiency of this nutrient are: Tiredness, fatigue, Loss of appetite, Weightloss, Numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, Depression, Balance problems, Confusion, and Bad memory.
5. What symptoms indicate vitamin B12 deficiency
Answer: Vitamin B12 deficiency’s main symptoms are weakness, fatigue, body weakness, loss of appetite, irritability, tingling, stiffness in limbs, hair loss, mouth ulcers, constipation, memory loss, excessive stress, headache, shortness of breath, yellowing of the skin, blurred vision. If this happens to you, consult a specialist immediately.
6. What is the most common cause of Vitamin B12 deficiency?
Answer: Vitamin B12 is mainly found in non-vegetarian foods, vegetarians are deficient in this vitamin. Also, if you have undergone any surgery, the red blood cells in the body decrease. This condition can lead to vitamin B12 deficiency. So such people should pay more attention to their diet after surgery.
7. How to overcome vitamin B12 deficiency
Answer: Vitamin B12 is found in fish, chicken, eggs, and shrimp. If you are a non-vegetarian, eat these things. Vegetarians can make up for this deficiency by eating some yogurt, oatmeal, soybeans, broccoli, and tofu. Apart from this, a good option is to take vitamin B12 supplements under the advice of a vegetarian specialist.
8. Why is vitamin B12 deficiency so common? 
Answer: The main reason is that the absorption of B12 is a complex process that involves several steps, any of which may go wrong. The following are the main reasons: Imbalance of intestinal flora; Leaky gut and intestinal inflammation; hypoacidity caused by atrophic gastritis; Pernicious anemia; drugs and alcohol consumption.
9. How to treat vitamin B12 deficiency?
Answer: Treatment of vitamin B12 deficiency is with vitamin B12 supplementation. By administering supplements such as vitamin B12, the situation of deficiency is improved. In addition, in patients with nerve damage, vitamin B12 is injected intramuscularly. Administration of vitamin B12 is continued until recovery, and eventually, improvement is achieved. However, severe nerve damage may not heal.
10. What complications can a vitamin B 12 deficiency cause?
Answer: Common complications include: 
  • Peripheral nerve degeneration, spinal cord subacute combined degeneration. 
  • Cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases: Hyperhomocysteinemia is caused by vitamin B12 deficiency, and this disease is a risk factor for atherosclerosis and venous thromboembolism, so it can be secondary to cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases.
  • If the anemia is severe, anemia heart disease, and heart failure may be secondary.
11. Who is at risk for vitamin B 12 deficiency?
  • People who do not eat animal food for a long time.  
  • Elders.
  • Patients with gastrointestinal-related diseases, mainly including chronic atrophic gastritis, gastric cancer, Helicobacter pylori infection, intestinal disease after antibiotic treatment, gastric surgery, gastrointestinal reconstruction for obesity, Sjogren’s syndrome Sign, etc.
  • Alcoholics.
12. What are the common causes of vitamin B12 deficiency?
  • Insufficient intake: long-term vegetarian diet, causing vitamin B12 deficiency in the body.
  • Abnormal absorption is caused by gastrointestinal diseases: such as chronic atrophic gastritis, gastric cancer, and Helicobacter pylori infection.
  • Alcoholism.
  • Genetic factors.

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