What is Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12, sometimes referred to as cobalamin, is another of the B vitamins that helps the body convert food into energy. Also water-soluble, this vitamin must be replenished daily, either through consumption of foods high in vitamin B12 or by taking a vitamin supplement.
Vitamin B12 Effects
Cobalamin, works hand-in-hand with vitamin B9, or folate, to help produce red blood cells and to maximize the uptake of iron in the diet. Vitamin B12 and folate work together to make S-adenosylmethionine, or SAMe, a substance that boosts both immune system function and mood. SAMe is also available as a supplement, and is advertised to treat osteoarthritis pain, depression, and to serve as a liver detoxifier.
Vitamin B12 Sources
Because this vitamin is found only in animal products like meat, fish or shellfish, eggs, organ meats, milk, and other dairy products. Cobalamin is not found in vegetables or fruits. As a result, vegetarians (and especially vegans) may be vitamin B12-deficient. So may older people, as the body’s ability to absorb vitamin Cobalamin becomes less over time. In fact, a randomized trial (VITACOG) has shown that this vitamin – and B complex – may slow down brain atrophy and cognitive decline among older adults.
Vitamin B12 Dosage
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regularly publishes minimum daily requirements of an entire range of vitamins and minerals. The daily recommendation for Cobalamin is 1.2 micrograms (mcg) for children 4-8 years; 1.8 mcg for children 9-13 years; 2.4 mcg for teens; and 2.4 mcg for those over 10. Pregnant women and those breastfeeding may need as much as 2.8 mcg per day or more, given the link between blood folate, Cobalamin, and neural tube defects among newborns and infants.
Though this vitamin is considered safe and nontoxic, even at higher doses, individuals should always consult a health professional. Taking only one of the B vitamins, in the absence of others, can lead to a vitamin B imbalance. People with abnormal levels of red blood cells should not take Cobalamin without medical advice. The same is true for people who have a disease of the eye called Lehrer’s Disease, because Cobalamin supplements can cause severe damage to the optic nerve.