Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin): Nutrient

Known as the “red vitamin” and often called the “energy vitamin,” B12 is unique: it is the only vitamin that contains a mineral – cobalt; it is the only B vitamin not utilized from plant foods; and since the body stores vitamin B12 (unlike the other B vitamins), it is required in much smaller amounts than other B vitamins (only 3-4 mcg are needed).

The “energy vitamin” is essential for the formation of normal red blood cells and for the health of the entire nervous system. Fatigue is usually the first sign of B12 deficiency. Dizziness, excessive sleep, depression, nerve damage, anemia, and dementia are among the many signs and symptoms that may follow if levels of vitamin B12 do not improve. When deficient for long periods, a condition called pernicious anemia develops.

Although cobalamin is manufactured by bacteria in a healthy intestinal tract, a mucoprotein enzyme produced by the stomach’s parietal cells (known as the “intrinsic factor”) is needed for vitamin B12 absorption. The intrinsic factor requires hydrochloric acid from the stomach. Individuals with weak acid production (a result of poor digestion, overuse of antacids, overeating, stress, stomach surgery, aging, or other factors) may become deficient in vitamin B12.

The only significant food sources of vitamin B12 are animal foods. Meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products are excellent sources. Though fermented foods may contain small amounts, it is not known how much is actually absorbed; thus, vegans must supplement with vitamin B12. The supplemental form is sold as cyanocobalamin. Taken sublingually (allowing a tablet to dissolve under the tongue), 10-20 mcg daily is recommended for adults.

By Lisa Tsakos| February 13, 2009
Categories:  Eat

About the Author

Lisa Tsakos

Lisa Tsakos

Lisa has been in her own practice for over 15 years and specializes in weight management. She teaches natural nutrition in both corporate and educational environments and is a shining example of someone who practices what she teaches.

Lisa is a nutritionist and educator specializing in weight management. After losing weight several years ago through a more natural diet and by improving her digestion, she committed to sharing her new-found knowledge and returned to school to study nutrition. Over the past decade, her Nu-Vitality Weight Program has helped employees at numerous corporations lose thousands of pounds. In addition, Lisa regularly consults for groups and individuals with unique nutritional needs such as police officers and athletes. Lisa has been featured on the Discovery Channel, numerous radio programs and is a contributor to various publications. Additionally, she teaches nutrition at multiple post-secondary schools, has taught natural food cooking workshops, and authored two books.

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