The Importance of Vitamin B12 in the Diet

The Importance of Vitamin B12 in the Diet

Vitamin B12 is an important vitamin in both men and women. It is responsible for maintaining energy levels.

B12 is required to break down foods which we eat, such as carbohydrates, proteins, sugars and fats into the energy the body needs to function. This article discusses the vitamin’s function in the body, the signs and symptoms of B12 deficiency and good sources of vitamin B12 in foods.

Vitamin B12 works hand in hand with folate to produce red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen to all parts of the body. B12 is important in metabolism. The liver, together with vitamin B12 plus a chemical called intrinsic factor secreted from the stomach lining, helps to convert many of the foods we eat into energy. B12 is also important in the maintenance and production of myelin. Myelin is a sheath of tissue that encircles nerve cells. It protects nerve cells from damage and allows them to function effectively. B12 is also important in genetic reproduction; it is a building block for deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) which allows cells to reproduce in the body.

Conditions That Can Lead to a Deficiency of Vitamin B12 in the Body


  • Lack of B12 in the diet
  • Vegan diets
  • Crohns disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Celiac disease
  • Excessive alcohol Intake
  • Pregnant mothers
  • Low B12 intake during infancy
  • Heavy menstrual periods.


Signs and Symptoms of B12 Deficiency


  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pale skin
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Shortness of breath during exercise
  • Loss of concentration
  • Depression
  • Tingling in hands and or feet
  • Swollen tongue
  • Bleeding gums
  • Difficulty maintaining balance.

The above signs and symptoms are suggestive of a serious disease called anemia. Anemia can lead to permanent nerve damage and can be fatal if not treated in the first 6 months of the development of symptoms. B12 supplements are often prescribed and/or the sufferer may have to be given B12 injections for the rest of their life. A well balanced diet including rich sources of B12 may also be useful in the treatment of anemia.


Rich Sources of B12


  • Organ meat, such as liver and kidneys
  • Sardines, mussels, oysters and clams
  • Lamb and turkey
  • Dairy products such as hard cheese and yoghurt
  • Eggs
  • Rabbit
  • Salmon
  • Beef
  • Shrimp
  • Poultry
  • Bread enhanced with B12 and folate

As you can see, most of the dietary intake high in vitamin B12 comes from animal products. Vegans and pregnant mothers should take a dietary supplement of vitamin B12 and folate, to ensure effective maintenance levels. The recommended daily dietary intake of vitamin B12 for adults is 2 micrograms and 3 micrograms for pregnant mothers. Eating at least one serve of the above foods daily would allow you to maintain healthy B12 levels.

B12 can boost metabolism and hence can be effective at reducing weight. If you are trying to lose weight, consider taking a B12 supplement or increasing your intake of foods rich in vitamin B12.

Vitamin B12 is important in maintaining health, energy, nerve function and cell reproduction. If you are not getting enough vitamin B12 in your diet, I would recommend taking a supplement. If you are suffering from any of the above symptoms, please see your doctor.

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