The B12 vitamin is one of the B vitamins that are essential to maintain a healthy body. Otherwise known as Cobalamin, the B12 vitamin is needed for the processes to convert the carbohydrates, fats and proteins from food into energy.
B12 also, more importantly, helps keep the red blood cells healthy and therefore prevent heart disease as well as keeping the immune system functioning at its maximum level. In addition, B12 is used to create the protective covering of all nerve cells in the body.
The most important function of B12 is to form healthy red blood cells. However, all cells need B12 to keep them healthy. It is the white blood cells, amongst others, that need B12 to help ensure that the immune system functioning properly. All nerve cells in the body also need B12 to form their protective fatty layer. This is essential for the nerves but is especially so for those in the brain. If there is not sufficient B12 to create this protective layer, then the brain will not be functioning properly.
Interestingly, the amount of B12 that the body needs is relatively small but is needed on a regular basis. However, B12 on its own is not enough as the body cannot absorb it easily. To help the body absorb B12 the stomach produces intrinsic factor which enables more of the B12 to be absorbed. B12 is only found in animal foods such as liver, eggs, fish and meat but most people consume far more than their recommended daily amount. This is not a problem as the body can only absorb about half of the B12 that is consumed. It is also worth noting that the body can recycle the B12 which cuts down on the impact of a deficiency. However, strict vegetarians or vegans are likely to require B12 supplements if they do not eat any animal products.
If the body does not have enough B12 then anemia is the most obvious symptom. Obviously, this is caused by a deficiency in B12 vitamin to make healthy red blood cells. Anemia can also be caused by the body not creating enough intrinsic factor to help absorb the B12 that is available in the food consumed. The body tends to make less intrinsic factor once a person reaches 50 and this will lead to less B12 being absorbed and supplements of this vitamin may be required. Kids are also at risk from anemia because they may not eat the food that contain B12. Pregnant women need more B12 because the baby is absorbing this vitamin during the pregnancy to grow properly.