Vitamin B12 is an important nutrient that everyone needs, to help keep the blood cells and nerves in the body healthy. It is also effective in preventing a particular type of anemia- megaloblastic anemia, which causes tiredness and weakness in people. Here are some essential things you should know about this particular vitamin and why it should be included in your daily diet.

What kind of a vitamin is B12?

Vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin and is extremely important for helping the nervous system and brain function. It is also important for enabling red blood cell formation. Generally, a number of foods have the natural presence of Vitamin B12. And since the human body is capable of storing an adequate amount of vitamin B12 to last several years, very few people suffer this nutritional deficiency.

What makes Vitamin B12 important for the body?

There are a number of vital body functions that are aided by Vitamin B12. Not only is B12 involved in the metabolism of all the cells in the body, but it also helps to maintain the health of the nervous system. Vitamin B12 is required for synthesis of red blood cells and even for regulation and synthesis of fatty acids. It also helps production of energy and is extremely important for growth and development in children.

What are the various sources for Vitamin B12?

Since Vitamin B12 is generally synthesized by bacteria, it is usually found in animal products like fish, egg and meat and certain dairy products as well. B12 is also found in some plant sources like algae and seaweed, but, these are not fit for human consumption and digestion. The good news, however, is that there are fortified foods being developed to meet the dietary needs of vegetarians.

What about B12 deficiencies?

As mentioned, B12 is needed for vital body functions, so its deficiency could cause severe and irreversible damage. Even deficiency of small amounts could affect the brain and nervous system causing symptoms like poor memory, depression and fatigue. B12 deficiency can also result in an autoimmune disease called pernicious anemia which tears down parietal cells in the stomach which release IF or the intrinsic factor. Lack of IF makes the intestinal tract unable to absorb B12, which then leads to further deficiency.

B12 deficiency is usually brought about by imbalances in food intake. It is important that elderly people and expectant or lactating mothers who follow a vegetarian diet supplement their diets with B12 rich diets or other B12 supplements to prevent deficiency. At least 2-3 micrograms of B12 per day is needed for the adult body. B12 supplements are safe for taking every day, provided there are some dietary allowances.