The Importance of Vitamin B12

The Importance of Vitamin B12Vitamin B12 is an organic, water-soluble compound that plays a key role in the performance of the brain and nervous system. B12 supports the normal function of the nerve cells and is utilized by the body to produce myelin, the insulating material that surrounds the cells and aids in neural transmission. Due to the fact that it is essential for the production of red blood cells, a vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to anemia. Moreover, because it is required for the replication of DNA, a B12 deficiency can also inhibit the generation of healthy, new cells and thus mimic the signs of premature aging.

Vitamin B12 is naturally present in a variety of animal products, including meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products. Fortified breakfast cereals and other foods have also been developed to help vegetarians and others meet their dietary requirements. During digestion, stomach acids facilitate the release of B12 from protein, after which it combines with a substance called intrinsic factor (IF) before being absorbed into the bloodstream. The human body is capable of storing enough B12 to last several years, so nutritional deficiencies are relatively uncommon. Those who are susceptible include:

  • Vegetarians
  • Individuals with conditions that can affect the body’s absorption of vitamin B12, such as atrophic gastritis, pernicious anemia, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and celiac disease
  • Those who have had their terminal ileum or stomach removed
  • The elderly
  • HIV-infected persons
  • Heavy drinkers
  • Anyone with an imbalanced food intake

Since vitamin B12 is crucial to vital body functions, it’s very important to prevent and treat a deficiency, which can lead to anemia and symptoms like:

  • Fatigue, weakness, and lightheadedness
  • Rapid breathing and heartbeat
  • Easy bruising
  • Easy bleeding and bleeding gums
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Unhealthy weight loss

Most people can avoid and treat a vitamin B12 deficiency by eating a sufficient amount of meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and dairy products. For those who don’t eat animal products, B12-fortified foods and supplements can help. If absorption is an issue, a doctor might prescribe vitamin B12 injections.

To learn more, or if you’d like to be tested for a vitamin B12 deficiency, please contact or visit the doctors at South Tampa Immediate Care walk-in clinic today.