Vitamin B12: To Drink Or Not To Drink?

Vitamin B12: To Drink Or Not To Drink?
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If you don’t want to read a detailed analysis of Vitamin B12 but want to understand whether you need to drink it, go to the bottom of the article.
IMPORTANT: Consult your doctor with questions about specific dosages, exact diagnoses, and how to use them.

B12 is one of the strangest and most complex vitamins there is, and here’s why:

1. It is the only molecule in the human body that contains cobalt.
The B12 molecule is so complex that it took 11 years to synthesize, and more than 100 scientists from different countries worked on the project.

2. We only need 2 micrograms of B12 per day.
At the same time, we can store up to 10 times more B12 than we need, which provides us with vitamin reserves for several years. This means that vitamin deficiencies are pretty hard to earn on a balanced diet.

3. Animals and plants cannot synthesize B12.
Only bacteria can do this, including those that live in our intestines. The problem is that B12 is absorbed in the small intestine and the bacteria that produce it live in the large intestine (which is lower). So we have to eat B12 with foods of animal origin.

Many mammals (especially herbivores) have come up with an ingenious method – coprophagy. They eat their feces with native bacteria to ingest B12 and other beneficial substances.

Why do we need B12

Vitamin B12 is involved in the synthesis of nucleic acids, red blood cells and (most importantly) myelin, which speeds up the transmission of nerve impulses along nerve fibers.

The scheme is as follows: We take in vitamin B12 with food → gastric juice “splits” the vitamin from food → the castle factor is combined with B12 → B12 is absorbed in the small intestine → accumulates in tissues and organs (favorite place – the liver )).

What is the castle factor?

The discovery of this factor was the first step in the discovery of vitamin B12.

I liked this story so much that I decided to include it in the post. Skip it if you want to get to the practical recommendations faster.

It all began in 1824 when a strange disease was first mentioned, pernicious anemia, the cause of which no one could guess. After 103 years there was a breakthrough – William Castle found the cause of the disease in an original way.
Castle’s experiment was as follows: some of the anemia patients received raw schnitzel, the other – gastric juice. And the third group was not very lucky – they were fed by a tube-digested Schnitzel Castle that lay in his stomach for an hour. As a result of the experiment, the third group got better, but the condition of the others did not change. Then Castle realized that the cause of the disease is something that appears in the stomach when we digest food. Patients don’t have this factor, so they get sick. This is how he discovered the “castle factor”, which is released by stomach cells and supports the absorption of vitamin B12 in the small intestine.

What is there to get B12?

Since vitamin B12 is well stored in the animal body, it is abundant in meat, fish and seafood. Other sources are animal products – eggs, milk, and anything made from them (cheese, butter, and yogurt).

To clarify, I’ve created an infographic:

If you’re a vegetarian, you can find vitamin B12 in nori, kimchi (not bought), tempeh, and Thai fish sauce. And there are vitamin-rich flakes and chlorella extract that you can buy as a supplement.

What is the deficit leading to?

    1. Megaloblastic anemia – violation of hematopoiesis. It’s pretty rare. Usually this manifests itself in people who do not develop the “castle factor” and newborns whose mothers are strict vegetarians.
    2. Birth defects – severe disorders of the development of the child’s nervous system. There is a risk of defects if a woman has a low vitamin status during pregnancy.
    3. Even after birth, children should be given adequate vitamin intake, as severe vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to irreversible developmental delays. There is an association between low vitamin status in school-age children and poor cognitive skills and academic performance. So far this is only a correlation, not a cause and effect relationship, but it is worth thinking about.
    4. Nerve damage
    5. Deterioration in cognitive function is a serious deficit that leads to deterioration in memory and a thinking disorder.

Much to all of these points leads to a serious vitamin B12 deficiency. A small deficit does not always lead to such clinical manifestations.

Symptoms of a B12 deficiency:

  1. Constant tiredness (even when waking up)
  2. Loss of appetite and weight loss
  3. Numbness in the hands or feet
  4. Difficulty keeping your balance
  5. Poor memory
  6. irritability

Who needs to think about taking a vitamin?

B12 deficiency can occur if you do not get enough vitamins from food or if you have problems with absorption.

This leads to risk groups:

1. Vegetarians and vegans

In this group the deficit is widespread. The exact spread is difficult to determine and the numbers are always different in research, but if you take the approximate spread – it’s 0-86. 5%.

Vegans are more likely to suffer from a deficit than vegetarians. The more strictly a person adheres to the nutritional system, the more serious the deficit.

2. People who do not develop the “castle factor”.

3. Persons who:

  • made a resection of the stomach;
  • have chronic gastritis;
  • chronically take antacids, antibiotics, H2 antihistamines, and proton pump inhibitors;
  • Alcoholic.

4. Older people

B12 deficiency occurs in 10-15% of older people.

What to do when you are in danger

There are more products with B12. If you’re in a group, consider taking vitamin supplements.

A healthy person who has a balanced diet does not need to consume vitamin A. At least no one has yet proven this necessity.

How much vitamin B12 is needed per day?

Vegetarians can take 0.005-0.1 µg per day or 2 µg per week (1000 twice) to meet their daily intake. But it is better to check the dosage with a doctor first.

How to take B12

There are two main methods: oral and injection.

If you have problems absorbing vitamin B12 (anemia and gastrointestinal problems), you may be better suited to injections.

In the case of a B12 deficiency due to insufficient intake of tablets.

Will B12 help improve mental performance?
There is no evidence that vitamin B12 can improve cognitive abilities. Rather, taking the vitamin is a way of avoiding the deterioration in mental abilities that occurred against the background of its deficiency. And that mostly only applies to older people.

Very short:

1. It is difficult for a healthy person with a balanced diet to achieve a B12 deficiency. Hence, you don’t need to drink B12 in supplements – it doesn’t make any sense.

2. People Who Should Consider Taking B12:

  • elderly
  • Vegetarians and vegans
  • Patients with chronic gastritis / who are receiving medication to control gastric acidity will perform a gastric resection