Vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin. It cannot be made synthetically, but must be grown, like penicillin, in bacteria or mould. Animal protein contains the highest level of naturally occurring B12, with liver being the best source and kidney, muscle meats, fish and dairy products being other good sources of this essential vitamin. Because of this, vegans and vegetarians have an increased risk of developing a B12 deficiency.
Vitamin B12 is unique, in that it is the first cobalt-containing substance found to be essential for longevity and it is the only vitamin that contains essential mineral elements.
Vitamin B12 is necessary for normal metabolism of nerve tissue and is involved in protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism. It also helps iron function better in the body and aids folic acid in the synthesis of choline. B12 helps the placement of Vitamin A into body tissues by aiding carotene absorption or Vitamin A conversion. It also aids in the production of DNA and RNA, the body's genetic material.
Vitamin B12 is prepared for absorption by two gastric secretions. It is poorly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract unless the "intrinsic factor", a mucoprotein enzyme, is present. Autoimmune reactions in the body can bind to the intrinsic factor, preventing vitamin B12 absorption. The intrinsic factor itself may not even be made because auto immune reactions prevent the cells ability to produce it.
A defect in the molecule that transports Vitamin B12 from the blood to the tissues can cause a deficiency - even when a normal serum blood test is read.
People who are deficient in Vitamin B12 usually lack one or more of these gastric secretions, necessary for its absorption. Many people lack the ability to absorb Vitamin B12 at all.
The highest concentrations of B12 in the body are found in the liver, kidneys, heart, pancreas, testes, brain, blood and bone marrow. These body members are all related to red blood cell formation.
A deficiency of Vitamin B12 is usually caused by an absorption problem caused by a lack of the intrinsic factor.
In those who have prolonged gastritis, a condition where the mucous lining of the stomach becomes irritated and inflamed, the stomach walls become very thin, secreting almost entirely mucus and very little digestive acid. In this condition, the stomach is unable to produce the intrinsic factor, a mucoprotein enzyme, necessary for the absorption of Vitamin B12 - which is essential for the formation of red blood cells. Because of this, a gastritis sufferer is in danger of developing pernicious anaemia.
A vitamin B12 deficiency can also be the result of parasites, such as a fish tapeworm.
A lack of B12 can also be caused by an excessive overgrowth of bacteria in the stomach and intestines.
Symptoms of a Vitamin B12 deficiency:
Pernicious anaemia is a condition characterised by insufficient red blood cells in the bone marrow. Pernicious anaemia probably arises from an inheritable inability of the stomach to secrete intrinsic factor, necessary for the intestinal absorption of vitamin B12.
Injections, rather than an oral dose of Vitamin B12 is given, to bypass the absorption defect. B12 helps the red blood cells to mature up to a certain point, and after than, protein, iron, vitamin A and folic acid help to finish the development of the cells so that they can mature.
Vegetarians and Vegans are particularly susceptible to this type of anaemia, due to their lack of animal protein consumption. In addition to this, the high level of folic acid contained in a vegetarian diet can mask a B12 deficiency.
Weakness and gastrointestinal disturbances causing a sore tongue, slight yellowing of the skin and tingling of the extremities.
In addition, disturbances of the nervous system such as partial loss of coordination of the fingers, feet and legs, some nerve deterioration and disturbances of the digestive tract such as diarrhoea and loss of appetite may occur.
Homocysteine is a sulphur-containing amino acid, present in the cells of our body, generally in only small amounts. Homocysteine is a product of methionine metabolism. Methionine is one of the eleven "essential" amino acids in the body. In healthy cells, homocysteine is quickly converted to other products.
Vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid are necessary to metabolize homocysteine. People who are deficient in these vitamins may have increased levels of homocysteine.
Some information states that high levels of homocysteine cause nerve and blood vessel damage, promoting the risk of a stroke and cardiovascular disease. Supplementation with Vitamin B12, B6 and Folate can help to lower these levels.
Homocystinuira is a disorder caused by an alteration to 1 or more genes, preventing the normal breakdown of methionine in the body. Because of this, homocysteine and methione levels increase in the body. A baby with homocystinuira will appear normal at birth but within a few years will begin to develop signs such as a dislocated lens in the eye, a long slender build, long thin fingers, skeletal abnormalities, osteoporosis, and a greatly increased risk of thromboembolism and of atherosclerosis that can lead to premature cardiovascular disease. The buildup may also cause progressive mental retardation, behavioral disorders, and seizures.
Rich sources of Vitamin B12 include:
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