Who Needs Vitamin B12?

Blood and nerve cells are maintained by a nutrient based on cobalt, collectively known as vitamin B12. The main avenue of vitamin B12 intake is through meat and dairy products, and so those on a normal diet are generally not in danger of becoming deficient. But there are at least two cases where this can happen: if diet does not include meat and dairy, and if something interferes with B12 absorption. If either of these occur, then vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms may manifest.

Symptoms are usually neurological in nature, consisting of depression, memory problems, numbness in fingertips, and so on. Also, there can be fatigue and constipation, as well as many other symptoms. Since these are so varied and similar to many other health problems, they are not indicative of B12 deficiency alone. Other factors, like risk situations, must be evaluated as well.

B12 is absorbed through a stomach enzyme called intrinsic factor, and thus requires a working gastrointestinal system. Any problems with this, and B12 absorption may be compromised. This can be due to disease, injury, or old age. Elderly people should suppelement with B12, as there may be a connection between deficiency and Alzheimer’s disease. And people with irritable bowel syndrome and other similar diseases may also want to consider supplementing.

Also, a vegan diet, lacking in meat and dairy, is in danger of leading to deficiency as well. Although there are some vegetable sources of B12, it is probably easier to get it through fortified foods like breakfast cereal and soy milk. Vegan children especially need to be supplemented, as they can run low on B12 quite quickly compared to adults.

Normal people who do not have stomach problems or avoid meat and dairy probably will not gain any vitamin B12 benefits. It has some uses as a possible topical treatment for psoriasis, and as a cyanide antidote, and it shows some anecdotal promise as an anxiety treatment, but all of this is still in the preliminary research stages.

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