(Cobalamin) is required for the body to absorb, store and activate
folate to its coenzyme forms. It works in conjunction with folate
to facilitate replication of cells and to produce red blood cells.
Vitamin B12 is necessary for the production of all blood cells,
including platelets and red blood cells, and white blood cells.
Vitamin B12 functions as a component in a number
of cellular processes that create energy from the metabolization
of carbohydrates, fat, and protein.
It promotes healthy growth and development,
the production of critical substances necessary for proper cell
function, and for metabolizing nutrients required for normal cell
growth. Cobalamin also acts to aid in the production of genetic
material, DNA and RNA.
Cobalamin plays an integral role in the processes
related to numerous body chemicals and helps the body to utilize
amino acids and fatty acids.
Vitamins B12, in conjunction with vitamins
B6 and B9 (folic acid), functions to regulate the levels of the
amino acid homocysteine in the blood. High blood homocysteine levels
are thought increase the risk ofr vascular disease and certain birth
It plays a vital role in maintaining the health
of the central nervous system, in supporting healthy nerve function,
in keeping nerve cells healthy, and in protecting against certain
types of nerve damage. Nerves are encased in a fatty sheath composed
of a protein called myelin which shields nerve fibers from each
other. Those who suffer from a vitamin B12 deficiency display irregular
damage to myelin sheaths, which could ultimately result in paralysis,
nerve and neurological damage, and even death.
Because vitamin B12 only comes
from animal sources, strict vegetarians or vegans who don't consume
any animal-based foods are the people most likely to have a deficiency.
Those who have difficulty absorbing vitamin B12 may also suffer
from a deficiency. Cobalamin is absorbed in the intestines and needs
a secretion from the stomach called gastric intrinsic factor in
order to be effectively absorbed. Those deficient in gastric intrinsic
factor absorb much less vitamin B12, and therefore may suffer from
a deficiency of it.
General symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency
can include tiredness, weakness, abdominal pain, nausea, constipation,
flatulence, reduction in appetite, and menstrual problems.
A lack of vitamin B12 can lead to megloblastic
anemia, which illustrates the connection between folate and vitamin
B12. Pernicious anemia is a type of megaloblastic anemia that results
from insufficient vitamin B12 intake or from deficient secretion
of gastric intrinsic factor. The effects of vitamin B12 deficiency
are almost identical from the symptoms of a folic acid deficiency.
These signs may include pallor of skin, headache, fatigue, syncope,
short breath, and palpitations. These symptoms can be totally reversed
through vitamin B12 treatment.
Neurological problems can also result from
a vitamin B12 deficiency. These problems can include numbness or
tingling sensations in the hands and feet, progressive neuropathy,
weakness in the legs, and problems walking. Neurologic problems
caused by a vitamin B12 deficiency may happen without any hematologic
problems (caused by anemia). Depending on the severity of the symptoms,
neurologic disorders resulting from a cobalamin deficiency may or
may not be able to be reversed through treatment.
Adeficiency of also can disrupt the synthesis
of DNA, which can negatively affect normal cellular growth and repair.
In elderly people, vitamin B12 deficiency may
result in mental disorientation, memory loss, and a yellowish tint
to the skin (jaundice).