What is vitamin B12?
Cobalamin or B12 is a water-soluble vitamin and one of the eight different B vitamins that are part of the so-called B complex. Cobalamin in particular is unique because it contains the mineral cobalt. A unique feature of vitamin B12 is that it is not produced by plants or animals, but is synthesized exclusively by microorganisms. It is mainly found in animal foods such as meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, liver, milk and cheese. B12 is particularly involved in cell metabolism, the formation of blood cells and is important for the functioning of the nervous system.
What is the function of vitamin B12 in the body?Vitamin B12 is crucial for many important biochemical processes, including the formation of red blood cells, DNA synthesis, the functioning of the nervous system and the metabolism of cells. Lack of intrinsic factor and/or problems with the ability of the intestines can thus result in a lack of vitamin B12, even if the diet contains sufficient amounts of it.
Foods that contain vitamin B12?
Because your body cannot produce the vitamin, you must get B12 through diet or dietary supplements. According to the Swedish Food Agency, an adult should consume 2.0 micrograms daily. B12 occurs mainly in animal foods such as meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, liver, milk and cheese. Microorganisms found naturally in the soil and the intestines of animals synthesize vitamin B12, which is then stored in the tissues of animals and transferred to humans through the consumption of these animal products. In order for your body to be able to absorb enough vitamin B12, it is required that the body absorbs the vitamin in the small intestine with the help of a protein called intrinsic factor. The following foods contain vitamin B12:
- Liver: from various animals, such as beef liver or chicken liver, are rich in vitamin B12.
- Fish and shellfish: especially squid, herring, mackerel, salmon, tuna and crab are good sources of vitamin B12.
- Meat: such as beef, lamb, pork and chicken, contain significant amounts of vitamin B12.
- Eggs: the yolk is a source of vitamin B12. However, remember that the vitamin is mainly found in the yolk, so if you only eat egg whites, you will not get as much B12.
- Dairy products: milk, yogurt, cheese and other dairy products also contain vitamin B12. Feel free to choose fortified dairy products to ensure a higher content of the vitamin.
Vegetable sources of food usually do not contain large amounts of vitamin B12. Therefore, it is especially important for people following a strict vegan diet to consider taking B12 supplements or using so-called fortified foods to meet the body's needs.
Symptoms of B12 deficiency
In order for your body to absorb vitamin B12 effectively, it needs to be absorbed in the small intestine with the help of a special protein called intrinsic factor. Lack of intrinsic factor and/or problems with the ability of the intestines can result in B vitamin deficiency. The most common reason is that you don't get enough of the vitamin through your diet.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can result in health consequences, including anemia (lack of blood), neurological disorders, memory impairment, numbness and tingling in the fingers, feet, arms and legs, and fatigue and weakness. It is therefore important to ensure you are getting enough vitamin B12 by eating a balanced diet or taking supplements if necessary.
Symptoms that may occur:
- Fatigue and weakness
- Memory impairment
- Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet
- Balance problems
- Digestive problems, diarrhea, weight loss and stomachache
- Anemia, symptoms include paleness, weakness, shortness of breath and palpitations
Do I need to test my B12 levels?
Vitamin B12 deficiency is relatively common and mainly depends on the diet. Individuals who follow a completely vegan diet or eat a very small portion of animal foods are at a slightly higher risk of developing vitamin B12 deficiency. By following the recommended intake levels, you can ensure that your body gets enough vitamin B12 to function properly and you therefore do not need to test yourself if you do not have any obvious symptoms.
Provided that you want to check your B12 levels and are concerned that you may be suffering from a b12 deficiency, it can absolutely be beneficial to carry out a blood test where vitamin B12 is analyzed. Here you will find our health test for Vitamin B12.
Can I get too much vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, which means that any excess is normally eliminated from the body via the urine. The risk of overdose is therefore very low. There are no known toxicity or harmful effects of getting too much vitamin B12 through diet or supplements. Studies have shown that intakes of up to 100 micrograms per day from food or through supplements have not been linked to any negative effects.
Relation between Vitamin B12 and folate
There is also an important connection between folate and vitamin B12 as these nutrients depend on each other to function optimally in the body. Vitamin B12 is necessary to convert folate into its active form called methylfolate. Without enough vitamin B12, methylfolate cannot be formed, which can result in problems with DNA synthesis and cell growth.