Imagine a vitamin that can boost your energy level and improve your memory. This vitamin can help prevent major birth defects in pregnancy, it supports bone growth and promotes healthy hair, skin and nails. This is vitamin B12, also known as Cyanocobalamin.
B12 plays many important roles in the body. But unlike other vitamins, the only way to get B12 is through your diet. Let’s take a closer look at this vitamin.
What B12 can do for you
The benefits of Vitamin B12 are numerous. We’ll give you the top 4.
- B12 can reduce your risk of macular degeneration
Macular degeneration is an eye disease that can effect your central vision. In the elderly, macular degeneration is a leading cause of blindness. By maintaining an adequate level of B12 you can lower the risk of developing this condition 1.
- B12 helps to promote strong bones and protects against osteoporosis
Studies have shown that there is a link between low B12 levels and poor bone health and osteoporosis, especially in women 2.
- B12 helps with red blood cell formation and the prevention of anemia
Vitamin B12 plays an important role in helping your body produce red blood cells. A shortage of these cells can lead to symptoms of fatigue, weakness and low energy
- B12 and pregnancy
When combined with folic acid during pregnancy, B12 can help prevent neural tube defects and other central nervous system problems in babies.
Who is at risk of a B12 deficiency?
There are many reasons someone might have a B12 deficiency including:
- Eating a poor diet with too few B12-rich foods
- Digestive conditions that interfere with food absorption, such celiac or Crohn’s disease
- Older adults and strict vegetarians are also more likely to have a B12 deficiency
The symptoms of a B12 deficiency
A B12 deficiency can be slow to develop, causing symptoms to appear gradually and intensify over time. It can also come on relatively quickly
Symptoms may include 3:
- Numbness, or tingling in the hands, legs, or feet
- Difficulty walking (staggering, balance problems)
- Fatigue (cause by anemia)
- A swollen, inflamed tongue
- Difficulty thinking and reasoning (cognitive difficulties), or memory loss
What happens if you have a B12 deficiency?
In the event that you have a B12 deficiency or if your doctor suspects that you might have one, he or she will ask you to undergo a quick blood test to confirm it. If a B12 deficiency is confirmed, your doctor will then discuss the best treatment options for you. This might be a review of your diet, a B12 supplement or a B12 shot.
What is the B12 shot?
A B12 shot may be given to people that are B12 deficient. It is a quick injection that is delivered into the arm. The whole process lasts under 5 minutes. A B12 shot is usually a fast and effective way to make sure that your body gets all the B12 that it needs.
1) Christen, W. G., Glynn, R. J., Chew, E. Y., Albert, C. M., & Manson, J. E. (2009). Folic acid, pyridoxine, and cyanocobalamin combination treatment and age-related macular degeneration in women: the Women’s Antioxidant and Folic Acid Cardiovascular Study. Archives of internal medicine, 169(4), 335-41.
2) Dhonukshe-Rutten, R. A., Lips, M., de Jong, N., Chin A Paw, M. J., Hiddink, G. J., van Dusseldorp, M., … & van Staveren, W. A. (2003). Vitamin B-12 status is associated with bone mineral content and bone mineral density in frail elderly women but not in men. The Journal of nutrition, 133(3), 801-807.
3) Harvard Health blog. Vitamin B12 deficiency can be sneaky, harmful. Patrick J. Skerrett