Vitamin B12: What is its role?

Vitamin B12: What is its role?

What is the role of vitamin B12? It’s a simple number, as there are only eight B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B8, B9 and B12). But what do we know about the last one?

The history of the nutrient

Scientific research on vitamin B12 began in the 1800s, when fatal malignant anemia prompted the scientific community to become interested in this vitamin. Shortly afterwards, its role in anemia and red blood cell synthesis was discovered. In 1948, Dorothy Hodgkin discovered three-dimensional structure of vitamin B12. It was not until 2007 that the study of vitamin B12 synthesis by microorganisms was completed.

What is vitamin B12?

This bright red vitamin is distinguished by its cobalt content: it is the only vitamin that contains cobalt, hence its second name, “cobalamin”. The peculiarity of cobalt is that it exists only in a form that can be assimilated by humans in animal products. In fact, since it consists of bacteria, yeasts, and microalgae, it must first be found in the digestive tract of the animals that consume it. There, it is fermented, multiplied, and converted into a form we can digest. Once consumed, the body stores it easily, especially in the liver.

What is vitamin B12 (cobalamin) used for?

Fatigue, stress, intestinal problems… You may have a vitamin B12 deficiency. How can you fix this? By taking a range of dietary supplements. The duration may vary depending on the extent of the deficiency, but generally 30 days is the recommended treatment to be fully effective. Vitamin B12 has many functions in the body. It is essential for:

  • Cell proliferation
  • The synthesis of DNA
  • The synthesis of fatty acids
  • The synthesis of neurotransmitters
  • The function of the nervous system.

Where can we find it?

Vitamin B12 is found in animal products and by-products. The foods that are richest in vitamin B12 are:

  • offal: liver (18.7 µg per 100g), kidneys (37 µg to 77 µg per 100g of lamb, turkey and veal kidneys)
  • fish: mackerel (19 µg), sardines (8,94 µg), salmon (3,05 µg)
  • seafood: oysters (15,6 μg), shrimps (1,49 μg), crabs (6,79 μg), mussels (up to 99 μg per 100g), octopus (15 μg)
  • eggs (1,1 μg),
  • meat (0,6 μg),
  • milk (0,5 μg),
  • cheese (0,8 μg).

How is B12 best absorbed?

When this vitamin is consumed in the form of a dietary supplement, the dosage can reach 5,000 μg, which is far from the recommended dose of 2.4 μg per day. This can be explained by the storage of vitamin B12 in the body which allows some supplements to be taken monthly rather than daily. At the same time, the vitamin B12 contained in a tablet is not fully absorbed by the body, so a high-dose supplement should be taken to meet its needs. To find out which vitamin B12 to choose in your case, seek the advice of your doctor.

In some special cases, vitamin B12 can also be given as an injection. For example, in cases of severe malabsorption or after digestive surgery. However, vitamin B12 injections may cause certain unwanted side effects: itching, hives, eczema, etc.

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