What’s the Deal With B12
We’ve all heard of it...B12. Lovingly referred to as “Vitamin B”, B12 is an important nutrient most abundantly found in animal products like fish, poultry, beef, and beef liver. It can also be obtained through enrichment or supplementation, but WHY do we need it? How does it impact our bodies? What happens when we aren’t consuming enough B12? Is it best to take it alone or in a complex? Buckle up! We’re going to answer all those questions, and more!
B12, or cobalamin, is needed for several important processes in our bodies. It contributes to DNA and energy production, red blood cell production, and even the health of our nervous systems! Whoa! That’s a big responsibility for a little vitamin, but, no fear! It can handle it! See, when we take in B12 through the food we eat, the hydrochloric acid in our stomach separates the B12 away from the protein it’s attached to and binds it to a protein our bodies make called intrinsic factor. That process allows our bodies to absorb the B12 and send it out to do it’s good work.
Before we can use B12, it has to be converted to coenzyme forms (cyano-, methyl-, adenosyl-), however the two coenzyme forms that are used for metabolic processes are methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin. While cyanocobalamin is available in supplement forms, some people may not be able to metabolize it into methylcobalamin or adenosylcobalamin so their bodies may not use it very efficiently. Fortunately, there are many forms of B12 supplements available to ensure adequate intake.
There are certain groups of people that may not absorb B12 properly. People with intestinal diseases, low stomach acid (i.e. taking acid suppressing medications for acid reflux), a certain type of anemia, called pernicious anemia, or those taking the diabetes drug Metformin might be at risk for not absorbing B12 properly. People consuming a primarily plant based diet (vegan/ vegetarian) might be at risk for inadequate intake of B12 as well.
So what happens when we don’t get enough B12? Most people won’t be surprised to hear that you might feel tired, and weak, but you can also experience constipation, weight loss, and loss of appetite. Some people experience hair loss, numbness and tingling (paresthesia), depression, memory problems, and more. B12 deficiency can even lead to damage to the nervous system and dementia! Yikes!
Now that we know how B12 works, why we need it, and what happens when we don't have enough, we can talk about the difference between B12 and B-complex supplementation. When you take B12 alone you get excellent benefits, but taking a B-complex is a great way to ensure that your B vitamins are working together to help you body metabolize B12 properly, and ensure adequate intake. B12, folate, and B6 work together to decrease circulating levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that is formed when proteins are broken down. High homocysteine levels have been found in heart disease and can increase the risk for developing atherosclerosis and blood clots. Another important B vitamin is niacin. Niacin has been found to have a positive effect on cholesterol, the nervous system, and skin health! It is abundant in animal foods and legumes. Lentils are an excellent plant source of niacin!
B vitamins are considered water soluble. While it is generally safe for most people to supplement B12 and other B vitamins, and no upper limit has been established for B12, it’s always a good idea to consult your doctor any time you are considering starting any new supplements or diet changes.
Garner’s Natural Life has many B12 and B-complex supplements available with many different dosage ranges. Stop in or give us a call to check out our options! We are happy to help you find the supplement that might be right for you!
- Sara Williamson
Garner's Natural Life Columbia