Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is one of the vitamins of the all-important B complex. Its functions are quite varied, so many people are concerned just to get good levels of this vitamin every day. Its role in the formation and repair of cells makes the benefits of vitamin B12 extend over various body systems, and is even important for gaining muscle mass.
There are, however, a number of myths about vitamin B12 supplementation. There are, in fact, no signs that especially high levels of vitamin B12 bring benefits to the body, especially with regard to weight loss.
Let's understand below what vitamin B12 is for, where to find it and what its main benefits and functions are in our body.
1. Cell Formation and Repair
Among the benefits of vitamin B12, the most comprehensive is its role in the formation and repair of cells. In this sense, there are multiple functions of vitamin B12, which participates for example in the formation and maintenance of red blood cells.
Vitamin B12 is inserted in this process by benefiting the formation of DNA during cell division, avoiding undesired mutations. Without this protection of vitamin B12, red blood cells are most affected by mutations that generate megaloblasts( abnormally large red blood cells) as well as deformed red blood cells.
This same protection is relevant for cells of the nervous system, which are healthier and more efficient because of the benefits of vitamin B12.
2. Prevention of Anemia
In protecting red blood cells, vitamin B12 takes as one of its functions the prevention of various types of anemia. In addition to preventing common anemia, vitamin B12 still avoids the complex anemia caused by genetic mutations such as sickle cell anemia and megaloblastic anemia.
3. Nervous System Protection
With regard to the nervous system, it is noted, for example, that patients with Alzheimer's disease are often deficient in vitamin B12.This relation points to a possible role of this vitamin in preventing this degeneration of the nervous system, which in any case has not yet been proven.
However, it is true that the benefits of vitamin B12 influence the health and performance of the nervous system in general, working towards the correct myelination of the neurons. In this way, the functions of memory, concentration and reasoning take place more effectively.
In addition, cobalamin protects the nervous system from the negative effects of stress, as well as shrinkage of the brain along aging, and reduces the risk of depression.
4. Resistance and Energy
The maintenance of red blood cells, for which vitamin B12 is responsible, binds to its functions in metabolism to relieve or avoid the sensation of fatigue. On the one hand, with numerous and healthy red blood cells, the muscles receive an adequate supply of oxygen. On the other hand, as vitamin B12 aids in the transformation of carbohydrates into glucose, the muscles are supplied with the required amount of energy.
In this way, vitamin B12 provides a sense of energy and vitality, adequate to withstand great physical or mental efforts, as well as stress and pressure in general.
5. Cancer Prevention
Studies point to the cobalamin deficiency found in many women who develop breast cancer. In this way, it is believed that the prevention of this type of cancer is one of the benefits of vitamin B12.Similar results point to the same likelihood for lung, colon, and prostate cancer.
6. Cholesterol and Triglycerides
Among the benefits of vitamin B12 is also the maintenance of low cholesterol levels, which is extremely beneficial to the circulatory system, since it prevents or at least significantly relieves high blood pressure and the process of arteriosclerosis.
The same control effect is exerted by vitamin B12 on triglycerides, whose accumulation in the body has effects similar to that of high cholesterol. In addition, triglycerides also lower HDL cholesterol levels( "good" cholesterol), making the problem worse.
7. Skin, Nails and Hair
For its functions in cell reproduction, vitamin B12 encourages the constant renewal of skin cells, hair and nails. This constant renewal ensures quick recovery from any damages, which creates healthier and better looking fabrics.
8. Male Fertility
Cobalamin is also capable of increasing the number of spermatozoa in semen. This function is not trivial, since the low number of spermatozoa is one of the main causes of male infertility, which in many cases can be treated by normalizing vitamin B12 levels.
9. Weight Loss
The belief that vitamin B12 contributes to weight loss is based on the idea that this vitamin is able to stimulate the metabolism to function faster as well as increase the energy supply to the body. In fact, these effects are extremely beneficial for weight loss, but there are no signs that they occur in people who already have healthy levels of vitamin B12.
The conclusion, therefore, is that maintaining healthy levels of vitamin B12 may be of great help, but going beyond these levels has no effect whatsoever. The very high doses of vitamin B12, usually administered with the promise of intense and rapid weight loss, are no more than delusions. In this case, it is worth remembering that there is no single solution: good levels of vitamin B12 only help in weight loss, which is produced by diet and exercise.
10. Muscle Mass Gain
For people looking to gain muscle, cobalamin is important because of its functions in the nervous system. Through the benefits of vitamin B12 to the nervous system, the connection between this system and the muscles becomes more effective, which makes the muscle contraction movements better performed, resulting in better quality training.
In addition, the correct metabolism of carbohydrates ensures the energy supply to the muscles, making training even more effective. After training, vitamin B12 functions in cell regeneration become valuable, stimulating a quick and efficient recovery of muscles.
Effects of Lack of Vitamin B12
Cobalt deficiency occurs because of an irregular diet, deprived of food with this important vitamin. In addition, there are risk groups that suffer from the deficiency more regularly, such as vegetarians, since the sources of vitamin B12 are mainly of animal origin, and the elderly, whose digestive system suffers because of the lower acidity in the stomach.
The same danger exists for those who use antacids frequently, for those who have digestive diseases, for HIV-positive people and for those who suffer from alcoholism.
The lack of vitamin B12 manifests itself mainly through anemia, which brings symptoms such as weakness and fatigue, in addition to marked pallor of the skin. Severe breaks can cause bleeding gums as well as a vulnerability to bruising and bleeding from the body.
Digestion is also affected by vitamin B12 deficiency, so that poor digestion is accompanied by diarrhea or constipation, which in the long run can lead to weight loss. In addition, effects on the nervous system can be perceived through poor memory and slow thinking.
How Much Vitamin B12 Is Enough?
The daily requirements for vitamin B12 increase throughout growth, from the initial level of 0.0004mg per day, valid for children up to six months of age. From then on, the daily dose increases regularly until it reaches the level of 0.0024mg per day at 14 years, a quantity that must be maintained for the rest of life.
There are no differences in the recommended amount for men and women, except in the case of pregnancy or lactation. Pregnant women need 0.0026mg per day, while infants have a daily requirement of 0.0028mg.
It should be noted, however, that vitamin B12 is water soluble: excess is easily eliminated by the body without any storage. Thus, it is necessary to consume the recommended amounts of vitamin B12 every day.
Where to Find Vitamin B12
The natural sources for finding vitamin B12 are especially of animal origin. In this way, foods with good amounts of vitamin B12 are mainly oysters and salmon, but also turkey and lean beef. Egg yolks and dairy products are also significant sources of the vitamin.
It is possible, however, to obtain the necessary levels from grains and cereals fortified with vitamin B12, so that vegetarians are not doomed to suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency.
Vitamin B12 Supplementation
Vitamin B12 supplementation is unnecessary for those who can achieve healthy levels through food with it. It is recommended, however, for groups that are most at risk of suffering from disability, such as vegetarians, seniors and people with gastric problems. In such cases, however, it may also be appropriate to consume foods fortified with cobalamin to avoid the need for supplementation.
One of the most common forms of vitamin B12 supplementation is, however, the injection of large amounts of the vitamin at one go. This injection is effective to treat sufferers at the moment with serious consequences of vitamin B12 deficiency, as in the case if severe anemias. For those who already have adequate levels of vitamin B12, or even for those who suffer from a small deficiency, it is a great waste.
As already mentioned, it is necessary to keep in mind that vitamin B12 is water soluble and therefore any excess amount will be eliminated by the body, resulting in no benefit. The dosage should, in fact, aim to ensure the achievement of the recommended dose per day, which is why it is recommended that it be determined by a physician.
Vitamin B12 Overdose
Fortunately, it is very unlikely to get damage from too high a dose of vitamin B12.The body's ability to eliminate excesses is too great, so in most cases there is no problem. In extreme cases, however, there are sensations of itching and numbness in the body. In addition, prolonged overdose may increase the chances of developing cancer, because of the stimulation of vitamin B12 to cell division.