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Why is Vitamin B-12 Important?

Pilled pistachio laying on a white surface

Vitamin B12 is a vitamin which David L. Katz (MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP) calls “the most important nutrient you aren’t thinking about.” The reason it’s so important is Vitamin B12 has an essential role in the formation of red blood cells, normal nerve cell functions and the reproduction of DNA. According to WebMD.com, in addition to these necessary functions, B12 has also been used to treat memory loss; Alzheimer’s disease; sleep disorders; depression, mental disorders, and B12 has been used in lowering high homocysteine levels (which may contribute to heart disease).

While the majority of the people in the US get adequate amounts of Vitamin B12 there are still groups who are prone to B12 deficiency. These people include the elderly, those who suffer from pernicious anemia, people who have undergone gastrointestinal surgery or have gastrointestinal disorders, vegetarians, as well as nursing mothers who are vegetarians and their babies. Aside from the vegetarians, the other groups may be eating enough Vitamin B12, but their body isn’t able to properly absorb it for one reason or another. The Office of Dietary Supplements says “Individuals who have trouble absorbing vitamin B12 from foods, as well as vegetarians who consume no animal foods, might benefit from vitamin B12-fortified foods, oral vitamin B12 supplements, or vitamin B12 injections.”

Vitamin B12 deficiency, while uncommon, is still something to watch out for. Katz, in his article on Dr. Oz’s website, states “common manifestations of vitamin B12 deficiency include weakness, numbness and tingling, fatigue, dizziness, swelling and irritation of the mouth and tongue, and irritability.” The Office of Dietary Supplements adds “additional symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include difficulty maintaining balance, depression, confusion, dementia, poor memory.”

Vitamin B12 can come from a variety of food sources, including: meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products. Some cereals are fortified with Vitamin B12, but check the labels for the amount in each serving. Vitamin B12 is also commonly available in supplement and prescription form. While most of us don’t need to worry about bring B12 deficient, there are other reasons to consider taking a sublingual b12 supplement. B12 has been known to improve one’s mood, energy levels, ability to concentrate and possibly even slow aging. So if you’re looking for a natural energy boost, look no further than Vitamin B12!