Jul 18, 2016
Often when it comes to vitamins, minerals, and natural health products, there is a lack of information available on the medication. Does the product have evidence it works? How much should be taken, at what dose? Do we need any beyond our regular diet? What if we take too much for too long? Unfortunately for many natural health products we do not have the answer to this. But luckily for vitamin B12 we do.
Vitamin B12 or cobalamin is a water soluble vitamin which has a couple of very key functions. It is directly involved in the formation of red blood cells and plays a key role in the function of the brain and the nervous system. In fact, to sum the importance of B12 up, it is involved in the metabolism of every cell in the human body.
At levels slightly below normal deficiency, symptoms such as fatigue, depression, and poor memory can occur. If you are finding yourself consistently tired, it could be due to a lack of B12. In more significant deficiency, symptoms of depression, mood disorders and psychosis can occur. Although extremely rare, severe deficiency of vitamin B12 can cause pernicious anemia and irreversible damage to the brain and nervous system. Incontinence and loss of taste and smell is possible.
Deficiency of Vitamin B12 can be caused by low intakes, malabsorption, certain intestinal disorders and use of certain medications. Interestingly, PPI's, which are commonly prescribed to treat sever acid reflux have shown to cause decreased vitamin B12 absorption. The elderly population, who may be subject to diets with limited meat or animal product consumption, are also at risk.
So now that we know how important this vitamin is, we next need to know where it comes from. Vitamin B12 is not found naturally in any plant or fungi products. Unlike a Vitamin such as D, we are not able to synthesize it ourselves. Food sources of vitamin B12 are meat, fish and dairy products. However; many foods are fortified with Vitamin B12 and it is available in many low cost supplements, available in pill and injectable form.
The current estimated average requirement for Vitamin B12 for everyone aged 14 and up is 2 mcg/day. In pregnancy and breastfeeding it should be slightly higher than that at about 2.6 mcg/day. Due to the issue that up to 1/3 of adults over the age of 50 are unable to effectively absorb vitamin B12 naturally occurring in their diet, they may need to consume B12 fortified foods or use a B12 supplement. Interestingly with Vitamin B12 there is no defined upper limit to what you have to consume. There is no scientific data showing side effects or poor health outcomes from too much Vitamin B12 naturally or in supplement form. This is why in the pharmacy you will find doses available ranging from 250 mcg to 1200 mcg. With its safety profile it is imperative to get enough. Now remember Vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin so it must be taken on a daily basis, which is stressed by many family physicians and specialists.
Vitamin B12 pills now come in the sublingual form, which dissolve on or under the tongue. While studies show they do not necessary increase absorption, they are a great option for someone who has difficulty swallowing pills. If someone does not find it convenient to take vitamin B12 or has trouble taking it on a daily basis the prescription injection form may be best. Usually provided once per month, many people find it more convenient and therefore more effective. Pill or injection form vitamin B12 is one of the cheapest medications available at the pharmacy.
If you are over the age of 50 and are feeling like you have a lack of energy and focus, vitamin B12 supplements could be a good place to start. It is a natural product, which we know is safe and effective. Your vitamin B12 is being monitored by your family doctor, as long as they are doing regular blood work. Vitamin B12 levels are fairly standard with the bloodwork you get at the lab. If your doctor has mentioned your vitamin B12 is low or close to being low, make sure you use regular supplements. This is extremely important. Usually your doctor will recommend continuing to take vitamin B12 again because its safe and effective.
Knowing which vitamins and minerals you need can be very confusing, especially with all of the choices available. If you have questions, remember to always talk to your pharmacist first so you get the right product.