Of all the vitamins and nutrients that we are likely to recommend, Vitamin B12 is perhaps one of the most essential, and therefore beneficial for supplementation. It fulfills a number of roles in the body, and there are a number of additional benefits we might get from it.
What Exactly is Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that occurs naturally in some foods. It is an absolute necessity for some fundamental processes in the human body, including the functioning of the nervous system, healthy formation of red blood cells, and DNA synthesis. The body breaks down vitamin B12 starting in the mouth when food containing the nutrient is first being broken down, and it is then distributed throughout the body.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is extremely common. Roughly 40 percent of people actually have a vitamin B12 deficiency. It is thought to be the most common nutrient deficiency in the world, including the U.S. and many other countries.
Most of the foods in which B12 naturally occurs are animal products such as meat, seafood and dairy products. Therefore, supplementing with B12 can be especially useful for those on a vegan or vegetarian diet. B12 deficiency can take multiple years to become noticeable because the body does an excellent job of storing it.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can show itself in a range of physical and mental symptoms, ranging from pale skin, weight loss and infertility, to depression and dementia.
Benefits of B12
Supplementing with vitamin B12 provides a range of benefits, some more necessary and predictable than others. This list of benefits is made in no particular order. Talk with your physician about supplementing with B12 before doing so.
- Encouraging healthy digestion might be one result of supplementing with B12. A lack of adequate B12 can lead to constipation and other difficulties.
- Vitamin B12 benefits your daily energy levels. The reasons for this are twofold: B12 helps the metabolism convert carbohydrates into energy, and it also is useful for neurotransmitter signaling to one’s muscles.
- Reducing heart disease and stroke might be possible with B12 supplementation, but scientific study hasn’t definitively proved this. The reason for this potential is B12’s role in reducing homocysteine, a naturally-occurring chemical in the human body which is related to various forms of disease.
- Supplementing with B12 can be very beneficial for women who are pregnant. One reason is because of B12’s role in DNA synthesis, which is of course a critical process during the course of pregnancy. If a pregnant woman does not have enough B12, this can affect folate production and potentially lead to birth defects.
- Preventing memory loss and dementia might be a benefit of vitamin B12. This is because of B12’s role in the nervous system and proper neurotransmitter functioning. B12 deficiency has been linked to development of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
- Preventing Parkinson’s disease is another potential benefit of vitamin B12 that we can attribute to its supporting role in the nervous system. Those with B12 deficiency are more likely to develop Parkinson’s.
- You’re more likely to have healthy skin if you get enough B12. Getting enough B12 can help contribute to the elimination of dry skin and blemishes including redness and acne.
- Supplementing with B12 might help relieve canker sores. This is recommended with oral under-the-tongue B12 supplements or B12 ointment.
- Healthier-looking hair is possible with vitamin B12. It can add shine and an overall healthy look to hair, hence why it’s added to some hair products.
- Contributing to a reduction in depression might result from supplementing with B12, along with other vitamins as well.
Of all vitamins and nutrients available, vitamin B12 is one of the most important. If you are at risk of being deficient in vitamin B12, or if any of the above benefits resonate with you, talk to your doctor about taking B12.