Our body requires many micronutrients and vitamins, so that the organs (especially their cells) perform various metabolic functions, which allow the human being to have a good quality of life and among these vitamins is vitamin B12.

In this article, we explain what vitamin B12 does and describe its benefits in the human body.

What is vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12, also called cobalamin , is an essential micronutrient for the human body , since the body is unable to synthesize it and therefore must be consumed through the daily diet.

Note: The B complex is a group of 8 vitamins among which are vitamin B1 ( thiamin ), vitamin B2 ( riboflavin ), vitamin B3 ( niacin ), vitamin B5 ( pantothenic acid ), vitamin B6 ( pyridoxine ), vitamin B7 ( biotin ), vitamin B9 ( folic acid ), and vitamin B12.

In this sense, vitamin B12 belongs to the complex of B vitamins and is only supplied through the consumption of foods of animal origin, since foods of plant origin do not contain it unless they are fortified with this vitamin.

It should be noted that the absorption of vitamin B12 is done through the small intestine , after being separated from the protein that contains it and combined with another protein produced in the stomach called intrinsic factor .

What does vitamin B12 do?

Vitamin B12 fulfills a series of functions within the body , which we mention below:

1. Contributes to the functioning of the central nervous system

Normal levels of vitamin B12 have been related to the correct functioning of the central nervous system , since it is involved in the synthesis of other chemical substances related to the individual’s mood.

To highlight: Vitamin B12 deficiency has been associated in patients with paresthesia problems, loss of sensitivity, strength in the extremities and ataxia.

2. Promotes the formation of red blood cells and DNA

Another of the functions of vitamin B12 is that it intervenes in the synthesis of blood tissue , specifically in the synthesis of red blood cells . Likewise, it intervenes in the formation of a chemical compound called deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), material that carries our genetic information.

You should know: Cobalamin is combined with folic acid and vitamin B6, to exert other beneficial effects on the circulatory system. On the other hand, vitamin B12 deficiency can cause a deficiency in the synthesis of red blood cells, giving way to a disease called pernicious anemia.

3. Involved in protein metabolism

The consumption of vitamin B12 helps in the metabolism of other amino acids such as methionine and homocysteine, essential in the formation of proteins.

Note: To compensate for the deficiency of this vitamin in the body, you can use vitamin B12 supplements.

4. Helps prevent megaloblastic anemia

Megaloblastic anemia is a type of anemia, in which the bone marrow produces fewer abnormally large, oval-shaped red blood cells with poorly developed internal contents. One of the causes of this type of anemia is vitamin B12 deficiency. Therefore, eating foods rich in vitamin B12 or cobalamin helps prevent this type of anemia.

Where is vitamin B12 found?

As we have already mentioned, vitamin B12 is found in foods of animal origin and in some fortified foods, which we mention below:

1. Carnes

Red meat is the most important source of vitamin B12 , but the highest concentration is in organ meats such as liver, heart and kidney.

On the other hand, poultry meats such as chicken, turkey or pork are also sources of vitamin B12 . For example, for every 100 grams of beef liver there is an average of 100 mcg of vitamin B12.

Highlights: Some people over the age of 50 have trouble producing enough hydrochloric acid in the stomach to break down meat proteins, leading to less absorption of vitamin B12.

2. Fish

Fish meat is also a source of vitamin B12. In this case, the consumption of oily fish is recommended, due to the benefits of its polyunsaturated oils.

You should know: This category includes sardines, tuna , salmon , horse mackerel, among many other species. Sardines contain an average of 28 mcg of cobalamin.

3. Eggs and dairy

Dairy products and eggs are another interesting source of vitamin B12 . Cow’s milk provides 25% of the minimum daily requirements, for each 100-gram serving.

Chicken eggs, on the other hand, supply 125% of the daily requirements for this vitamin.

4. Fortified cereals

At a commercial level, there are a series of cereals that include a portion of vitamin B12 among their ingredients , as a complement to the daily diet.

Note: Cereals and other products that have vitamin B12 are pasta, rice , bread, breakfast cereals, wheat, corn , oatmeal , among others.

Key Conclusions

  • Vitamin B12 is an essential micronutrient, because the body does not synthesize it.
  • This vitamin belongs to the B complex group  of vitamins .
  • Vitamin B12 comes from food, mainly from foods of animal origin.
  • Vitamin B12 helps prevent neurological and blood tissue disorders.
  • Vitamin B12 in combination with other B complex vitamins benefit human health.

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