Vitamin B12 does HEAPS for your body. It helps you make DNA, protects against cancer, and looks after your skin, nails and hair (love).
A deficiency in vitamin B12 can be dangerous. But what’s more worrying is that a growing number of people are being misdiagnosed with something that is so simple to cure. More often than not, being B12 deficient can mimic other diseases such as mental illness, cancer, infertility, and Alzheimer’s (just to name a few).
And while we can’t say ourselves, research from the Tufts University Framingham Offspring Study suggests that 40 percent of people between the ages of 26 and 83 have B12 levels in the 'low normal range' which can cause a whole host of neurological problems (and that’s only the start).
With all of that considered, we think it's important to fill you in on what vitamin B12 has to offer, and how we can make the most of it.
Firstly, lets talk DIET. Most people can prevent low B12 levels by eating enough poultry, meat, and dairy products. If you're not sure where to start, here’s a one-stop shopping list to get the most vitamin B12 from your diet…
- Fortified cereals
How much B12 do you need?
Not sure how much to take? According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) adults need approximately 2.4 mcg a day of vitamin B12. If you’re over 50 or vegetarian you may need to take a supplement. We recommend Quest Vitamins’ new, Vitamin B12 which are suitable for vegetarians and vegans as well.
Other people who definitely need to pay attention to B12 are those who are expecting a baby. Most people know about the importance of folic acid during pregnancy, but vitamin B12 also plays a crucial role. Nutrition consultant Lorraine Perretta says, "These two vitamins (folic acid and vitamin B12) are more effective when they're working together. A deficiency in either of these nutrients during pregnancy can increase the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida." Try Advanced Nutrition's Pregnancy Pack, which you can take when you're planning to conceive right through to breast feeding.
Now, lets get started!
1. It keeps your nervous system in good working order
Ever feel tired or irritable and not sure why? You could be deficient in B12.
Lorraine says, “Vitamin B12 helps the body make neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that communicate information throughout the brain and body. When they are out of balance they can affect mood, sleep, and concentration.”
Symptoms vary, but generally, if you’re lacking in B12, you’ll find it pretty difficult to concentrate. And if you’re super deficient, you can even suffer from memory loss and dementia (and that’s something we'd definitely like to avoid, thanks.)
2. It helps synthesise DNA
Vitamin B12 is SO important for the production of DNA which is the genetic material that ALL life is based on.
“When vitamin B12 is low, cells that normally divide quite quickly, such as those found in the bone marrow (which form blood) are not able to effectively reproduce their DNA, leading to abnormal cell structures. This can then lead to anaemia and to the degeneration of nerve cells,” says Lorraine.
And if it's left too long, a deficiency can cause nerve damage, but don't fret too much! Extremely low levels of vitamin B12 are rare as the body stores years worth of vitamin B12 in your liver. Just in case, you know?
Those most at risk here include vegetarians and elderly people. So if you're in that category it's vital to keep tabs on how much you’re getting.
3. It gives us more energy (i.e. ALIVE)
If you’ve done everything you can to boost your energy, but just can’t seem to find a way to feel more energised, a boost of vitamin B12 might be all you need!
Lorraine says, “This vitamin helps the body convert food and fatty acids into fuel. The body then uses this fuel to produce energy. Without this your energy levels will be affected and you could feel weak and tired most of the time.”
But there's things you can do to combat this. The key here is to eat a varied diet. Make sure you're chowing down plenty of eggs, poultry, meat, and dairy on the regular and watch those B12 levels soar. If you’re concerned, the best thing to do is to speak with your doctor who will be able to advise you based on your individual health.
4. It helps create red blood cells
Without vitamin B12 your body won’t be able to produce any blood cells! Which includes platelets, red blood cells and white blood cells. So you can imagine how important they are just for us to function.
“Vitamin B12 together with iron and folic acid create healthy blood cells. Red blood cells are needed to carry oxygen through the body. If you don’t have enough of these, your body can’t make enough oxygen and you will feel tired,” says Lorraine.
Apart from a blood test the only real way to know if you're deficient in B12 is by being familiar with your body and how you feel. Try keeping a food diary for 3 weeks and see how many B12 foods you're consuming on a regular basis - this should tell you how much you're getting.
5. It helps protect you against cancer
Studies have shown that vitamin B12 may protect against some forms of cancers. A 2003 study from Cancer Causes & Control found that women who use vitamin B12 supplements may be less likely to develop cervical cancer.
Furthermore, some experts also believe that not only may it help prevent cancer, but it may also prevent them from reoccurring so it’s DEFINITELY worth checking out!
6. It helps protect your heart
Getting enough vitamin B12 is so important when it comes to protecting your heart.
When consumed, B12 can help lower your levels of homocysteine (which is an amino acid that is thought to increase your risk of heart disease). And according to studies, B12 along with folic acid can help significantly decrease your homocysteine levels. Hello healthy heart!
7. It helps you sleep better
As you age your body produces less vitamin B12, which may explain why older people find it more difficult to get a good night's sleep.
The good news? Research has found that maintaining sufficient levels of vitamin B12 can help regulate tryptophan, an amino acid thought to promote good sleep. Hurrah.
8. It gives you healthy, glowing skin (and more)
If glowing skin is what you’re after look no further than the power of vitamin B12.
“Vitamin B12 helps place vitamin A into our body tissues by aiding absorption. When we have sufficient levels of Vitamin A it helps to give us smooth, healthy and glowing skin,” says Lorraine.
And when it comes to beautiful skin, expert chemist, Dr. Joe Cincotta says that directly applying vitamin B12 is actually more beneficial than consuming it. “Consistent use of topical Vitamin B12 leads to thicker, firmer skin, and reduces the signs of ageing skin by increasing the production of essential protein fibres such as collagen and elastin as well as hyaluronic acid (natures hydrating powerhouse).”
And it doesn’t stop there. Vitamin B12 is also responsible for our healthy nails and hair, too!
If you’re looking for something specifically targeted to your skin we recommend trying Time Bomb Complexion Cocktail with a shot of B12 which is a toner-like substance topically applied for plumper, younger-looking skin, instantly!
So...are you getting enough vitamin B12 in your diet? Tweet us @wewomenCA!
You Might Also Like: