Much is written about vitamin B12, often it is recommended. But what is this B12 and is it true that it is a “vitamin”? We’ll look at that for you today.
Vitamin B12? What is that? Chemically speaking: At least not a single vitamin!
No, “vitamin” B12 is actually more than just a vitamin. Rather, they are so-called cobalamines, because the element cobalt is central in this compound. B12 is colloquially synonymous with the whole vitamin B12 group. The “vitamin” therefore contains more than a single compound.
You may have heard of coenzyme B12, the most important representative of this group. In medicine, cyanocobalamin (synthetically produced) and hydroxocobalamin (natural) are used to supplement it. The human body then converts these forms into adenosylcobalamin (the coenzyme B12) and methylcobalamin. This also refers to the technical language as active coenzyme forms.
So if you read something about the diet, you will find all these cobalamines simply as vitamin B12. It is important that not only one, but several cobalamines perform important functions for the body!
But: Chemical names do not help much. Let’s see what vitamin B12 or the cobalamine really are and where you get it from.
How does my body get this important supplement?
Vitamin B12 is mainly found in animal foods and the small intestine absorbs it for you. It is then transported into your blood via the intestine.
Fortunately, vitamin B12 can also be stored by the body: the liver is responsible for this. You still need at least 3 micrograms a day – that’s what the DGE (German Society for Nutrition) calls a supply. In fact, this corresponds to the need, since vitamin B12 is naturally not completely absorbed via the food or dietary supplement.
In addition, the DGE recommendation only takes into account the absence of deficiency symptoms with this dose. Current studies therefore cite the double to three times as recommended intake (4-10 micrograms).
Supplements, on the other hand, contain 500 to 1000 micrograms. Isn’t that too much? In fact, the body absorbs a little more than 1 of them: that is, 5 to 10 micrograms, which fall into the recommended intake.
But moment! It’s all the talking about chemistry. Are there no natural vitamin B12 deposits? But! In animal products, they accumulate naturally by bacteria (blue algae). Don’t worry, the body doesn’t need artificial chemistry here, but natural products.
What do I need vitamin B12 for?
The important nutrient vitamin B12 is equally helpful and necessary for several processes in your body:
- You need B12 to produce red blood cells.
- You need vitamin B12 for DNA synthesis.
- Your neurons also can’t work without vitamin B12. The lipid metabolism, which provides the building materials for cell membranes and the nerve protection layer myelin, needs vitamin B12.
- The hormone balance is also regulated by vitamin B12.
- Your metabolism also needs vitamin B12 for several decompositions. Otherwise, the metabolism of fat, carbohydrates and nucleic acid cannot function properly. Nucleic acid is essential for healthy genetic material (DNA and RNA).
- Vitamin B12 is also used to detoxify chronic diseases and immunodeficiencies.
However, these are just a few examples. Vitamin B12 has a positive effect on a myriad of processes in the body.
This is why doctors measure your vitamin B12 levels for a whole range of problems: if you have problems forming red blood cells, your spinal cord may be sick or your intestines cannot absorb the nutrients properly. In addition, vitamin B12 helps with cell division, the production of neurotransmitters and energy production.
You want to do something for your muscle building? Then you will like the positive effect of vitamin B12 in protein metabolism.
In fact, there is hardly a nutrientthat has such a strong impact on your well-being and physical performance. Vitamin B12 is irreplaceable.
In adults, a reference value of vitamin B12 in the blood is assumed to be between 148 and 738 pmol/l. In children, the blood level is very different and also gender-dependent. More specifically, your GP can help you here.
My B12 content is too high or too low. What does vitamin B12 do to me?
Again, this can mean several health problems. But if your doctor measures the value, he or she knows what to do.
Unfortunately, vitamin B12 is mainly found in animal organisms. A meatless diet can therefore lead to too low a value. Vegetarians (up to 45) and especially vegans (up to 75) therefore often suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency. Even an intake of the only detectable B12-containing plant Chlorella (a freshwater algae) is not sufficient to meet the demand.
One also reads that sauerkraut and beer are equally small amounts. These contain so-called analogues. However, according to studies, they are not helpful and are not absorbed by the body.
Speaking of nutrition, if you get the wrong food, you can have the same problems.
Inflammation of the kidneys or severe chronic liver inflammation (hepatitis) also lead to low vitamin B12 levels. The intestine is also sensitive to chronic inflammation or absorption disorders.
If you have undergone surgery where part of the small intestine has been removed, vitamin B12 levels are also a common symptom.
To absorb it, you also need the so-called “intrinsical factor”, a special protein produced by the gastric mucosa. If you don’t have enough vitamin B12 here, you can’t take enough vitamin B12 from your gut. However, this case is extremely rare.
Too high vitamin B12 levels are much rarer. This usually only happens with too high dosage of vitamin B12 supplements, in case of a disorder of blood cell formation or in liver cancer.
What is Vitamin B12? It is a vital nutrient
So your body needs vitamin B12 in countless processes. Especially vegans and vegetarians can hardly meetthe needs via the diet.